By Kevin Kelley
The Westlake Historical Society is seeking donations for the city’s sixth Ohio Historical Society historical marker.
The planned marker will honor the late Robert Overmeyer, a NASA astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions. Although born in Lorain, Overmeyer moved to Westlake as a child and considered the city his home.
A 1954 graduate of Westlake High School, Overmeyer served in the Marine Corps before being named an astronaut in 1966. He served as a support crew member for Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission in 1975.
In 1982, Overmeyer was the pilot of the fifth space shuttle mission. Three years later, he served as commander of another space shuttle mission. Overmeyer spent more than 12 days in space during the two missions. He was named a lead investigator of the 1986 Challenger disaster and retired from NASA in May of that year.
Overmeyer died at the age of 59 on March 22, 1996, in the crash of a light aircraft he was testing.
Probably no one in Westlake knows more about Overmeyer than Lysa Stanton, president of the Westlake Historical Society. For example, she can tell you that Overmeyer’s family grew up on Canterbury Road, that he worked at Dean’s Greenhouse while he was in high school and that his nickname was “Bucky,” after a favorite cowboy character.
“In my opinion, he’s an American hero,” Stanton said of Overmeyer.
Coincidentally, when Stanton was a student teacher while at the University of Cincinnati, she gave lessons on Overmeyer’s 1982 Columbia mission. She and her students created a bulletin board dedicated to the mission that included the astronauts’ biographies.
The Westlake Historical Society needs to raise $3,000 to purchase the marker, which will be installed sometime this summer in Clague Park.
Last year at its Clague House Museum headquarters, the organization installed a historical marker to honor the Clague family’s 1926 donation of their 78-acre homestead to the community. To erect that marker, the historical society set out jars for local children to fill with pennies.
The jars are back this year, Stanton said, for children to deposit pennies they’ve collected. Larger donations from others in the community are also being sought, she said.
“We don’t care if it’s a dollar or 10 dollars,” Stanton told West Life.
Stanton said she thinks the public will be able to better relate to an astronaut than some of the other figures the historical society has honored, such as the Clagues or Westlake pioneer Leverett Johnson, who came to the area in the 1800s.
“Ohio is blessed to have had so many astronauts,” Stanton said. “To me, Robert Overmeyer is a hometown hero.”
Donations for the Robert Overmeyer historical marker can be mailed to the Westlake Historical Society, P.O. Box 45064, Westlake, OH 44145.