Retirement home residents recall moon landing

KELCI MCKENDRICK | Staff photo John Cook, left, David Gentry, middle, and Mary Ellis, right, are residents at the Van Buren House and recall their memories of the June 20, 1969, moon landing 50 years later.

Mary Ellis remembers about 10 people crowded around her office in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, D.C., watching the July 20, 1969 moon landing.

“All the work stopped there,” said Ellis, 85. “Everybody was glued to the TV.

She called Neil Armstrong’s radio message “The Eagle has landed” fantastic — “It just gives me chill bumps to think about it.”

Ellis, a Stillwater native and resident at Van Buren House in McAlester, said she was astonished at “such an amazing goal,” when President John F. Kennedy announced the moon mission in 1961.

She also said she was amazed by how much technology has advanced since the moon landing, and was astounded at how many advances came as a result of the space exploration.

Residents at the Van Buren House and Walnut Grove Living Center discussed the 50th anniversary of the first man on the moon with the News-Capital:

From Walnut Grove:

Stephen Ranallo, 63, is a Walnut Grove resident from Hartshorne. She was 13 years old as she watched the historic moment on her TV. “I felt proud of America,” she remembered of that day.

Gayla Stone, 65 and a Crowder native, was 15 years old when she and three of her cousins watched at their grandma’s house. “It was monumental,” Stone said. “We had never been on the moon, and ... We were looking at something that would go down in the history books.”

From Van Buren:

David Gentry, 75, was working at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City and was on his way back to OKC from Calexico, California, when his car broke down in Arizona. He watched the moon landing from a gas station with about three others. “I was mad my car broke down, but I was interested in the people on the moon.”

Alma Crouch, 88, watched while caring for her newborn, and Barbara Turner, 86, remembered watching it on TV, too.

John Cook, 77, has lived in McAlester since 1982. He worked with the USS Yorktown, but was in the hospital at the time of the moon landing. Despite being there, he said he felt elated watching it.

Bob Jones, 94, has lived in McAlester since 1948 and was working at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. Jones said even though production didn’t stop, all the employees knew what was going on and were proud.