Sheldon Green was born on November 17, 1931 in Ganado, Texas to Frank and Opal Green. He had a brother, Kenneth, and a sister, LaVina. He grew up riding horses, jumping out of trees, fishing and hunting, playing football, and drawing cartoons. He spent 4 years in the Navy including a 14 month deployment to Japan and Korea. While on leave, he flew back to Kansas where he married Pat on June 6, 1951.
After leaving the Navy, he took a job at Boeing while also attending Wichita State. It was during this time that he bought his first plane for $450 complete with an oil leak and a hole in the windshield. He learned to fly and would often use the plane to go duck hunting, landing next to ponds when he spotted flocks of ducks.
In 1962 he and Pat moved their three daughters, LInda, Terri, and Denise, to California. They finally settled in Lompoc when Sheldon accepted a job at Vandenberg Air Force Base working on missile simulators. He became Communication Manager in direct control of all operation communication during missile launches. He decided that he had finally found his life's work.
Sheldon was assigned to the program for the first Gemini mission and went on to support Apollo, and all three Skylab missions. When the Space Shuttle program started, he participated in the initial planning and worked each mission from the first orbital space flight of Columbia on April 12, 1981 until he retired in 1990. He also provided communications for unmanned booster programs like Titan, Atlas, Delta, and Scout.
Sheldon said the highlight of his career was in July 1969, when he was sitting on a console in Hawaii working the Apollo 11 mission and he heard these words: "Houston, this is Tranquility Base. The eagle has landed." This was followed by Apollo 13 when an oxygen tank blew out the side of the Lunar Service Module and he spent 48 hours straight on a console in Hawaii to help get the crew back alive.
In 1990, he retired after 27 years at the Western Test Range. From a speech given at the time: "In 1988 NASA selected Mr. Green as a Manned Spaceflight Awareness Honoree, and he was presented this special award at a ceremony at Cape Canaveral. He was singled out for his excellent support of the Space Shuttle's return to flight. . .few government employees attain 'legend' status, but Mr. Green has certainly come close. His enormous contributions to America's space program and to the Western Test Range, along with his positive 'can-do' attitude and warm personality have left a unique legacy."
Sheldon Green attained legend status as a grandpa as well. He wasn't like other grandpas: he chased his grandchildren around the park playing pirates and taught them to ski, fish, box, and hunt. He flew his plane for the sheriff's aero squadron. He made homemade ice cream, cherries jubilee, and waffles with bacon inside. He created the most beautifully detailed dollhouses and model trains. He was a loyal supporter of the Lompoc Braves football team.
He was a cartoonist who published his work in magazines and newspapers. His family could go to just about any restaurant in town and find his cartoons sketched on napkins hanging up behind the registers.
In 1986, Sheldon donated a kidney to his youngest daughter, Denise.
He and Pat were adventurous grandparents. They biked across Europe and went for hot air balloon rides. They drove their camper to Alaska with their fierce little dachshund protecting them from bears. They went SCUBA diving for abalone. They were both licensed pilots and flew that little Bellanca Cruisemaster all over the US and Mexico. On weekends, Pat and Sheldon would fly over their grandchildren's houses and wave the wings to say "hi" or deliver presents to out-of-town grandchildren.
Sheldon Green did so much in his 89 years that it's hard to contain it all in a single piece of writing, but he said that his most successful job was giving family--his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren-- a "good, solid, loving family environment for a foundation of love."
Sheldon passed away peacefully at home on March 21. He was preceded in death by his parents; his siblings; two of his daughters, Linda and Denise; and a granddaughter, Tiffani Villa. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Pat; his daughter, Terri, and her husband Doug Gorham; son-in-law Trini Chavoya, Sr.; his grandchildren, Lisa Dyer, Michael Dyer, Trini Chavoya, Jennifer Moreno, Brandon Moreno, Aaron Dionne, and Ryan Dionne, as well as all his great-grandchildren.
His ashes will be scattered at sea.
Donations in his name can be made to his church, Micah Mission Lompoc.
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