A life of service remembered at memorial to John Glenn
Explorer, senator, American hero. John Glenn led a life of service to others. A memorial for Senator Glenn at The Ohio State University offered the chance for so many who had been touched by his life to say thank you.
Vice President Joseph Biden, Governor John Kasich, and Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman joined an audience of hundreds to say farewell to a life that in many ways epitomized the aspirations of America in the 20th century.
“The thing I liked most about John, is that he knew ordinary Americans could do extraordinary things,” Biden, who served with Glenn in the Senate, said. “The world knew and respected John. From Columbus to Cambodia to Washington to Beijing.”
The ceremony featured video clips of Glenn’s life from his youth in New Concord, Ohio, to his service in the U.S. Marines to his time with the space program to his time in the U.S. Senate.
Biden spoke directly to Glenn’s wife Annie about his admiration of their seven decades of marriage.
“All you had to do was see John and Annie walk together and know that’s how it was supposed to be,” Biden said.
Glenn was remembered as an educator as well. The location of the memorial was Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State. The university had become a home at the end of his political career. He founded the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy, which eventually became the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, the university’s 15th college.
“He was passionate about education and the college and he was honored it bore his name,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “As we bask in the glow of greatness we are uplifted and inspired. Inspired because we too can be steadfast and true. We too can be compassionate. He lived an outstanding life in a way that exemplified the value and power of being our best.”
A decorated Marine pilot, Glenn’s heroism in World War II and Korea set him on a path of service to his country. General John Daily, a friend and fellow Marine, spoke of Glenn’s commitment to the country.
“Service to the nation was personal to him,” Dailey said. “We had John for 95 great years and it wasn’t enough.”
Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth as one of the first astronauts. He returned to space in 1998 at the age of 77 on the Space Shuttle Discovery.
“Every one of us on planet Earth has benefited from having him on our team,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “John made us look up. Not only to the sky, hoping to see him, but to a higher purpose that we as a country are always trying to achieve.”
The ceremony also featured personal reflections from those closest to Glenn. His children David and Lyn spoke about trips camping and skiing with their father. They told the audience how much he loved to sing with them. And they spoke about what it was like to be the children of a man who left so many in awe.
“People would say, ‘What’s it like? John Glenn’s your father. What is it like to have a hero for a father?’ I said, ‘He’s just my dad,’” Lyn Glenn said.
Senator Brown and his wife, columnist Connie Schultz, spoke of their long friendship with the Glenns and what it meant to their family. Schultz said she remembered when Glenn took the time to speak to her grandson, and how his patience and understanding could serve as a message to a sometimes divided nation.
“If American icon John Glenn can take the time to treat a child with such respect, surely we can find ways to listen to each other,” she said.
Brown agreed. He said some of Glenn’s ideas and positions were needed now more than ever. He said Glenn warned that cynicism and apathy were a threat to democracy.
“He was a workhorse, never a show horse,” Brown said.
John Glenn will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery this spring.
Godspeed John Glenn.