The New York Times

Neil Armstrong Walked on the Moon. To These Boys, He Was Just Dad.

DALLAS — In the summer of 1969, Rick Armstrong was 12 and whacking the baseball in the Houston-area Little League. He was selected to play in the all-star game — but he had to skip it, because he was at Cape Canaveral in Florida to watch his father, Neil A. Armstrong, blast off to the moon. “I wasn’t happy about that,” said Rick, now 61. As the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 approaches, Rick and his brother Mark, 55, are auctioning about 3,000 belongings of their father, who died in 2012. In the process, they are revisiting their childhoods and the enduring legacy of their father as the first person to walk on the moon. “I intellectually get it,” Rick said. “But internally I’m not sure I will ever get it. It’s sort of just my dad.” The items to be auctioned include flags, medallions, stamped envelopes and other memorabilia that Most of the material had been sitting in basements and storage lockers for decades. “We felt like we should embark on the process of making sure we keep things in good condition and where possible conserve them,” Mark said. They could have donated everything to a museum or a university, but then many, if not most, of the items might have sat in boxes, unseen and unstudied. In an auction, each item is researched so that buyers know what they are buying. Photographs of every item will remain online afterward. “That means that item’s history is preserved for anyone to see and for research later on,” Mark said. The first batch of about 800 items will be sold on Nov. 1 and 2 in Dallas. As a preview, some will be on exhibit Oct. 1-5 at Heritage Auctions in Manhattan. While many NASA astronauts have auctioned off items decades ago, “Neil Armstrong never did that,” said Michael Riley, director of the space exploration department at Heritage Auctions. “Nobody ever realized what he had, what he kept, whether he kept anything.” Mark admitted it was not an easy decision to sell his father’s belongings. “It’s something we struggled with,” he said. “Would dad approve? Let’s see what positive things we can do with the proceeds.” Even though astronauts were national celebrities in the 1960s, Rick recalled his life was “just normal growing up in the suburbs. It did not seem particularly extraordinary or anything.” Their mother, Janet Armstrong, taught synchronized swimming. They would have dinner usually at the same time every evening. Sometimes their father would get home on time. Sometimes he was away for NASA business. There was always an emphasis on doing well in school. For the occasional family vacations, they flew to Acapulco, Mexico, in a small private plane they co-owned. “He’d fly it,” Mark recalled. “Mom would sit in the co-pilot’s seat, and we’d sit in the back. Usually with an empty bottle or two that we could pee in.”

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