GLENBURN TOWNSHIP — Bill Speare is a lifelong resident of Lackawanna County, but his interests have always been in outer space. Speare, of Glenburn Township, ran the planetarium at the Everhart Museum in Scranton in 1969.
There he met Neil Armstrong less than a year after the astronaut made those famous first steps.
“To look directly at him and then look at the moon, and think that person actually walked there, was mind-boggling,” said Speare.
Speare took his interest in outer space, and his admiration for Armstrong, to the extreme when he went on a cruise in 1973 with Armstrong to view a solar eclipse. A picture of that eclipse still hangs in his living room at his home in Glenburn. It’s the only souvenir he has from when he really got to know the man who walked on the moon.
“I don’t really have heroes, but I have the utmost respect for someone like that, to have the guts to do that. There was no guarantee he’d have a round trip ticket,” said Speare.
Speare also met Armstrong to exchange a moon rock that was featured at the Everhart Museum in 1970.
Pictures of that exhibit later wound up at the appropriately-named Neil Armstrong elementary school in Scranton. Newswatch 16 visited there 12 years after Armstrong walked the moon to see students take in NASA’s first shuttle launch in 1981.
Now, even though NASA’s manned space program is gone, and so is Armstrong, Speare says his legacy will still live on.
“I think even more so, I think because like I said, he was a very reserved individual, and like so many others, you’re often more famous after you go,” said Speare.