Neil Armstrong was my “shirt-tail” cousin! – Gwen Billingsley

Neil Armstrong was my “shirt-tail” cousin! – Gwen Billingsley

By LawReader Senior Editor Gwen Billingsley

My husband and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Astronaut Neil Armstrong on Aug. 25, 2012.

I am originally from Lebanon, Ohio, Neil and Jan Armstrong bought a farm a few miles outside Lebanon in 1974. They had 2 sons, Rick and Mark, who were close to my son’s age. Because of school activities that our children were involved in, I got to know Neil and Jan. They were lovely, gracious people.

There was an unspoken understanding that everyone was to respect the Armstrong’s privacy and NEVER speak of the “Moon Walk”.

During my son’s high school years, the Lebanon Warriors Football team was virtually undefeated and went to “state” every year. My son was on the team and Neil’s son Mark was the starting quarterback, both his junior and senior years. Because the team was so good; it became necessary to sell season tickets, for specific seats in the grandstand. Our seats were directly in front of Neil and Jan’s during the 1979 season and we became well acquainted.

One night the weather turned cold, the wind kicked up and it began to snow. My coat did not meet the challenge. Without saying a word, Neil leaned forward and wrapped me in his blanket.

Coincidentally, I was researching my genealogy. I discovered that my great, great grandmother was Catherine Armstrong; the daughter of Captain (later Col.) John Armstrong, “Famous Indian Fighter”; (Beard’s History of Butler County, Ohio) and the builder of “Armstrong’s Station” in Clark County Indiana.

The next time I saw Neil I asked him if he was descended from, Captain John Armstrong, “Famous Indian Fighter”? He grinned and said, “Yes, but I don’t know the details. My mother keeps track of all that stuff.”

As I have continued to research our ancestor, I have learned that John Armstrong had attempted the journey, later completed by Lewis and Clark to find the passage to the Pacific Ocean. He got no farther than the Missouri River. He kept great notes, which were studied by Lewis and Clark before they organized their adventure.

Neil must have been genetically predisposed to be an adventurer!

To read more about Captain (Colonel) John Armstrong:

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