100 WVIA Way
Pittston, PA 18640

Phone: 570-826-6144
Fax: 570-655-1180

Copyright © 2022 WVIA, all rights reserved. WVIA is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State road honors NASA engineer, area native

Old Forge officials and Glynn Lunney's family pose with the signs that will honor him along a nearly half mile section of Main Street.
Tom Riese
Old Forge officials and Glynn Lunney's family pose with the signs that will honor him along a nearly half mile section of Main Street.

A man who was instrumental in NASA’s 1969 moon landing was honored Thursday in Northeast Pennsylvania. A Lackawanna County borough designated a half-mile section of state road to the former space flight director.

The late Glynn S. Lunney was raised in Old Forge and went on to become an aerospace engineer. He later moved to Texas to work for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and was flight director during the Apollo 11 mission that put astronaut Neil Armstrong on the moon. Lunney was also on shift to bring three astronauts to safety in 1970 during the Apollo 13 flight. He died at the age of 84 in 2021.

Now, signs along South Main Street in his hometown will bear his name – Glynn S. Lunney Way – and the NASA logo. The section of road runs from Mary Street to Sussex Street in Old Forge.

The street dedication effort was 54 years in the making, according to radio personality Rusty Fender, who also works as a civil and satellite engineer. He said he’s tried for years – four separate times – to get PennDOT, NASA and Old Forge on the same page to honor Lunney.

But the stars finally aligned. Old Forge Mayor Robert Legg unveiled the street signs Thursday before an audience of local officials, residents and Lunney’s family, most of whom came in from Texas for the occasion.

“Other than gaining our independence from England in the 1770s, I think landing a man on the moon was the greatest single accomplishment in the history of America, maybe the world,” said Legg.

Though the street dedication was decades in the making, Legg said, it’s timely. The public has a renewed interest in space now that NASA plans to send another astronaut to the moon as early as 2026, and maybe someone to mars in the mid-2030s, he said.

Lunney’s three sons, daughter and grandchildren were in attendance at the event at the Old Forge Borough building.

Bryan, the youngest of Lunney’s sons, followed in his father’s footsteps and also worked for NASA as a flight director. There were only a few who held that position by the time his dad served in the administration.

“Dad was number four,” he said. “We keep track of this stuff… by the time I got there, I was number 54.”

Shawn, another son, said he remembered visiting Old Forge just a few weeks after the Apollo 11 mission in August 1969. A parade along Main Street was held in his father’s honor, and dignitaries gathered at the Old Forge High School stadium. He was seven years old at the time.

“They shot off little remote rockets,” Shawn said. “I remembered thinking at the time, ‘that was so cool,’ because we hadn’t yet been to a real launch of a Saturn 5 [rocket] at the time.”

Speaking before the crowd along Main Street, son Glynn Jr. said it made sense that his father went on to great things.

“This is really where America is born is where it comes from,” he said, “the people who grew up in these small towns all around the country are really the lifeblood of America and that’s what my dad was.”

WVIA has produced two videos on Lunney and his career. To see him share details about pivotal U.S. space missions, be sure to check out A View from Apollo 11 Mission Control and Apollo 13 - Working the Problem.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.
Related Stories