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ST. MARYS — As news of Neil Armstrong’s death circulated the globe on Saturday, local residents remembered the legacy of the first man to walk on the moon.
“I knew him through Scouting,” local historian George Neargarder told The Evening Leader. “I was on the board of review for his Eagle Scout award. I also knew his dad, too.”
While Armstrong has been linked to Wapakoneta throughout his life, the astronaut lived in St. Marys for some time. His childhood home still stands at 1022 E. Spring St. Neargarder noted Armstrong also attended fourth grade at East School.
“He was always positive,” Neargarder said of Armstrong. “He was always a good Scout and always tried to help people. He was always friendly, and he never acted stuck up.”
After returning from the moon, Armstrong led a life largely out of the public eye.
However, Neargarder recounted a time when Armstrong stepped up to help the county celebrate its sesquicentennial.
“He was a private man,” Neargarder said.
“When we had our sesquicentennial, he signed a bunch of pictures of the courthouse to help us finance it. We sold 250 of them. There were very few things he signed but he did sign those.”
Neargarder said he would always remember Armstrong as an Auglaize County native who risked his life doing what he loved.
“I think the people of Auglaize County will and should always look up to him,” Neargarder said. “As an explorer, he flew into space and risked his life because there was no guarantee he was coming back.”
Kraig Noble noted a member of his family was among the first to welcome Armstrong into the world.
“One interesting tidbit, which I have a personal point of pride in, is my grandfather Vernon, who was a St. Marys doctor, delivered Neil Armstrong,” Noble said. “His mother also worked at the Glass Block in St. Marys.”
Like Neargarder, Noble noted Armstrong’s roots — not only to Wapakoneta but also to St. Marys.
“I think his family roots are just as strong here,” Noble said. “The Armstrongs were among the first settlers of the St. Marys area.”
Noble never met Armstrong, but praised him for not exploiting his achievements for personal gain.
“He’s so unlike the celebrities of today who try to profit off every thing,” Noble said. “He did not want to use his fame to profit personally and you had to admire him for that.”
In death, Noble said he hopes local residents — and children — take life lessons from Armstrong’s accomplishments.
“He should be an inspiration to any school child in Auglaize County that you, too, can rise and achieve great things,” Noble said.
“It’s a lesson for all of us. He did the proverbial study hard, work hard, be passionate about a certain topic and you can reach your dreams. That’s exactly what he did, and he’s a great lesson for local folks here.”
Auglaize County Historical Society Administrator Rachel Barber said she remembered gathering in front of a crowded television screen when Armstrong touched down on the lunar surface.
“I remember having people over at our house, and the most exciting part was staying up late,” Barber said.
“There was certainly a very celebratory atmosphere around the whole community at that time.”
Barber said she hoped local residents remember Armstrong as his family asked in a statement shortly after his death.
A portion of the 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, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
“I think his family really got it right,” Barber said.
“They knew him best and knew what he wanted and when we look at him, he was a great example to follow.”