- From the desk of John Zimkus, WCHS Historian
"Today, the world honors and remembers that 50 years ago Apollo XI astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man ever to step foot on the moon. Neil, however, would want to be remembered for more than that lunar walk five decades ago. Neil was a more than that. He was more than a Korean War Naval fighter pilot who flew 78 combat missions, or the civilian test pilot of the X-15 rocket/jet. He was more than an aerospace engineer and a university professor.
He was a husband and a father. Neil Armstrong was also our neighbor. He was a citizen of Warren County, of Turtlecreek Township and of the Lebanon, Ohio area. For 23 years, Neil Alden Armstrong lived less than two miles from downtown Lebanon. He lived here longer than any other place during his 82 years on this earth.
Many magazine and newspaper articles written about Neil refer to him as a recluse, a person who prized his privacy overall and was reluctant to give interviews. But, as many of you know, Neil did not live a solitary life nor did he withdrawal from society here in Warren County. He helped build the Countryside YMCA by serving on its first board of trustees. He had an office in town for over 20 years. He loved eating at her Village Ice Cream Parlor in Lebanon.
As James R. Hansen author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, an authorized 2005 biography, pointed out in a speech in 2014 at The Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. “The idea that he was a recluse and wanted to avoid the media was false. He did not want to be rich or famous based on being the first man on the moon alone. He left that part of his life for the history books.”
Perhaps the best way to describe Neil can be found in the statement his family released through NASA after he death on August 25, 2012. “Neil Armstrong was . . . a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”
Neil, being a former Naval Aviator would probably have agreed with Admiral William “Bull” Halsey statement that, “There are no extraordinary men . . . just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” Neil said multiple times that he was not an explorer. He was simply a pilot doing what he was trained to do.
Another part of the Armstrong family's statement read, “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty.”
With that understood, I think he would have appreciated, that back on October 7, 2014, the City of Lebanon had a new 3/4 mile roadway dedicated as Neil Armstrong Way. It connects Ohio SR 123 and SR 63. This small but useful stretch of road serves his former neighbors of Warren County, Turtlecreek Township and Lebanon, Ohio. It makes their lives a little easier and safer. That would be The Neil Armstrong Way."
"I am almost finished with 'The Pioneers' by David McCullough. It’s an enjoyable, very readable account of the Ohio Company’s opening of Ohio at Marietta a good 8 years before the first settlers in Warren County Ohio. It is an easy read and should be required in all Ohio Schools. I wish he would write one about our settlement of Ohio. We have just as interesting stories to tell."
-Vicky Van Harlingen, Director of WCHS
C.F. Payne is an artist-illustrator whose artwork has graced the covers of Time Magazine, Readers Digest, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Book Review and Sunday Magazine, MAD Magazine, der Spiegel, U.S. News and World Report, The Atlantic Monthly, Texas Monthly, Boys Life and more. He has been commissioned to paint countless politicians, authors and entertainers. He has illustrated ten children’s picture books, including The Remarkable Farkle McBride and Micawber, written by John Lithgow.
His artwork has been exhibited at The Cincinnati Art Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Norman Rockwell Museum, The Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration, The Selby Gallery at Ringling College of Art and Design and numerous college and university galleries.
Various staff and volunteer writers.