December 17, 2018
The Astronaut Memorial Grove is looking lit these days—with beautiful white lights for the holiday season. That is … all except for one tree—astronaut Pete Conrad’s—which is resplendent in red lights.
The Astronaut Memorial Grove, spearheaded in 1996 by then NASA Johnson Space Center Director George Abbey, became a reality when seven live oak trees were planted in memory of the STS-51L crew members who perished during the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. From that moment on, tree dedication ceremonies have been held in honor of every astronaut who has since departed this life.
In the book “Rocket Man” by Howard Klausner and Nancy Conrad, wife of late astronaut Pete Conrad, astronaut Buzz Aldrin said when Pete’s tree was dedicated, his close friend and Apollo 12 crewmate Alan Bean took the podium and “channeled” the spirit of his departed comrade.
Like the Oracle of Apollo delivering messages from the great beyond, Bean paused and looked skyward for about 10 seconds, looked down at the hundreds of Johnson employees assembled, and quipped, “As I fell asleep last night, I was thinking about what I might say today. I woke up in the middle of the night and Pete was at the foot of my bed, saying, ‘Don’t worry about it, Beano, I’ll tell you what to say tomorrow!’” Again, Bean paused and looked to the sky. “Okay Pete ... Okay ... I can do that.” Bean looked back at the crowd and said, “Pete wanted everyone to know he appreciates their being here today.” Then he turned his attention to Abbey: “George, Pete says that while he was here he was always the shortest astronaut, but he doesn’t want his tree to be the smallest tree. Pete wants his tree to be special—the most colorful tree—because his motto is, ‘When you can’t be good, be colorful.’”
If you get a chance to drive by during the twilight hours to view the shining trees, here’s to hoping the colorful arrangement inspires your own deep feelings, memories and enchantment this holiday season.
This article contains excerpts from a 2012 Roundup Reads article.