Meeting Bill Haynes

“…was perhaps the greatest thing to come out of my trip to the moon,” said Buzz Aldrin at the memorial today. I had a drink with him afterwards. It was old home week for friends of Bill, and there were many, going back decades.

It was a beautiful service. I said something like:

As the pastor said, I’m sure that Bill would be delighted to have gotten some of the people here into a church. In my case, he would have been shocked. Maybe enough to rouse the dead. [pause] OK, guess not, but it was worth a try.

I met Bill about thirty years ago, when I came out to California from Michigan, wet behind the ears, and went to work for Aerospace, and it was the start of a long and wonderful friendship. I hadn’t seen him much in the past few years because I’d moved to Florida, but I moved back a year ago and still didn’t get around to seeing him, for no damned good reason, and now I’ll regret it the rest of my life.

I see Buzz is here, and I don’t want to take any of his time away, nor do I want to step any one else’s speech with this story that I’m sure he told many others than me, but to follow up on what Bill Simon said about Bill’s interest in space, he wasn’t just interested in it, but wanted to go himself from an early age. When he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during the war, he told the recruiting sergeant that his goal in the service was to go into space. The sergeant scratched his head for a while, and said, “Sorry, son, but the army doesn’t have a space program. Maybe what you should do is just write down that you’re interested in ‘extremely high-altitude flight.'”

And that’s what Bill did. Fortunately for him, a couple years later, the Army captured some Germans who were escaping to the west from the advancing Russians, one of whom was named Wernher von Braun, and suddenly the Army had a space program. Then a couple years later, when the Air Corps became the Air Force, they got into it too, as did Bill, first with missiles, and then, after his retirement from the military, with space stations. He helped a lot of other people get into space, but it’s a shame that he never fulfilled his dream of doing it himself, unless he found a different way on Sunday.

Ad astra, Bill. Ad astra per perspera.

I found out that Bill Simon had taped seventeen hours of Bill telling his life story over the past few years, so perhaps a lot of a remarkable life will be preserved, along with his archives. It was a bittersweet occasion, and the most memorable funeral I’ve ever been to, I think.

4 thoughts on “Meeting Bill Haynes”

  1. Dear Rand,

    It was an honor meeting you today, and I really appreciate you sharing your memories at Bill’s memorial service. Thanks for posting this on your blog. Ad astra per aspera, Rand.

    Pastor Charlie Kurtz

  2. I’m TERRIFIED of heights, just saying

    I don’t know bill, but I love space, even though I’m afraid of heights.

    bit Bill seems like someone like my uncle who said DECADES ago to me “space isn’t up, it’s forward, at a very high rate of speed.”

    So even though I crap myself on top of the sears tower, I can see myself in space.

    Bill seems like that kind of guy.

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