"Their example is timeless,
their spirit does live on."
John Glenn on the Wright Brothers
By Peter Wine
It was a tribute to Orville and Wilbur Wright, and the men they were that was displayed most proudly at the 100th Anniversary Celebration at Woodland Cemetery on Sunday, July
It was also the public unveiling of the new look for the site where the Wright family is buried.
In his welcome message, former Astronaut and Senator John Glenn put the Wright brother’s life in perspective when he said, "All of our lives were changed, my life was changed, very dramatically, by an event that happened 18 years before I was even born. Constraints on time and distance were forever broadened, by the Wright brothers, on that December 17th in 1903. Horizons thought to be too remote, were now reachable."
But in a theme that would resonate through the day, he told us it was the character of the men that really counted. "But it was not their mechanical and research skills alone that set them on the path to success where so many had failed. It was much more than that. It was the way they approached their work, the attitude of try and try again. Of optimism in the face of failure; of a can-do attitude and a spirit… of devotion to the task."
"Their bodily remains are buried here, but that spirit, their spirit, is not buried here. That spirit lives on in the life of every person young or old who is inspired by their example, to imagine, to dream, to do, to move the world ahead. Their example is timeless, their spirit does live on."
In introducing former Astronaut Neil Armstrong, and with family members Stephen Wright and Amanda Wright Lane smiling, John Glenn reminded the crowd of some more recent history. "If you look at your watch about 4 o’clock this afternoon, it will be 34 years that Neil [Armstrong] landed on the moon today." This caused a growing "OOOOH" from the crowd that turned into loud applause, then became a standing ovation by those on the stage. (The crowd was already standing.)
Upon taking the podium, Armstrong said, “34 years?” When the crowd stopped laughing, he went on to speak of the legacy of the Wright brothers from his unique position in aviation. ”Dayton has celebrated this 100 years of flight and talked about the amazing achievements that have occurred in that hundred years. And we’ve lauded the dedication, the creativity and achievements of Wilbur and Orville.”
“But this morning,” Armstrong continued, “we remember Wilbur and Orville, not for those achievements, but for the kind of men they were. Men of honesty and integrity in everything they did. Something for us to remember and emulate.”
Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum, is a place filled with history, and those at this celebration witnessed some their own in the making.
After the service, Amanda and Stephen got a special present of their own, when they were presented a picture frame with pictures, drawings and and pieces of the fabric from the Utah State University replica of the Wright flyer.
Gene Buckingham, Executive Director, was a driving force in the change in the Wright's gravesite. "It was my idea to do this," he said.
Architect Steve Brown collaborated with the family to get this new look, designed to bring more identity to the site. Gene says the family was "very cooperative."
The ceremony was punctuated with aircraft. As it began a Wright "B" flyer circled the site, and a C-141 Transport from the 445th AirLift Wing did a single pass at the end. Woodland Trustee Sue Williams says they wanted a faster plane, but couldn’t get the clearance needed because of the Vectren Dayton Air Show Presented by Kroger in Vandalia.
Many visitors were also able to get their programs signed by Stephen Wright or Amanda Wright Lane after the celebration.
Oakwood residents Don & Patty Weir grew up in the same neighborhood with as the Wright brothers. They were here with Dave Reynolds. Dave also grew up in the Wright's neighborhood, and has his own connection to history. Dave was visiting the Wright's gravesite in 1947 when he met Orville Wright. He even got to shake hands after Orville laid down his flowers on Wilbur's grave.
David and Nancy Fisher came from Boston suburb Brookline Massachusetts to be at the Award ceremony Saturday, and rode their bikes to the service today.
A private pilot, David was web surfing more than six months ago when he discovered the information on Inventing Flight. He bought his tickets to the Aviation Hall of Fame Ceremony the same day, and began preparations to be here.
David and Nancy flew into town in his 4 seat Cessna. They brought along bicycles that are small enough to fit onto his plane, which both agreed made the experience more memorable.
That, and David was able to get his picture taken and shake hands with Astronaut Neil Armstrong at
a ceremony Saturday night.