Leila Case: Still moonstruck after 50 years

Published 12:40 pm Sunday, July 21, 2019

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As we observed the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 earlier this week, those of us who are old enough vividly remember this milestone event in our nation’s history. I certainly do — we lived in Athens then and gathered around the television where we watched the amazing black and white images of the rocket launch to the moon and man’s first steps on its surface. Of course, we were all “moonstruck.” It all looked so unrealistic and unbelievable to all of us.

We were fortunate to see the memorable event on television, but our friend Mike Saliba of Americus and his young family were living and working in Satellite Beach, Florida, and although he was 25 miles away from the launch site he saw it and felt the earth shake under his feet. “It was quite an event,” said Mike, a graduate of Florida State and mathematician and computer programmer. And indeed, it was. Mike worked for NASA in 1963, and he worked on the first stage of the development of Apollo series.

An interesting aside Mike told me is that his Americus High School classmate, Mae O’Hara, was in the U.S. Air Force then and she was dietician to the astronauts and responsible for creating their meals. He said Mae and her twin brother Billy O’Hara were faithful communicants of Calvary Episcopal Church Americus during their school years, and where Mike continues as a dedicated communicant and member of the choir. Unfortunately, Mae died a few years ago, Mike said, but her twin resides in Rochester, N.Y. An interesting story.

Meanwhile, Steve Short, whose family have been members of Hebron Baptist Church on the Dawson Road for generations, gave an interesting program on the Rev. A.C. Wellons, founder of the church, at its 125th anniversary observance last Sunday attended by more than 100 including members, friends, and out of towners like Kathy Chappell Peters and her son Thomas Peters of Athens, and several others. A video of the 100th anniversary celebration in 1994, ran continuously in the Fellowship Hall during lunch catered by 2 Dukes Barbecue, while desserts were prepared by women of the church, one of whom is my friend Elaine Thomas, a gourmet cook.

Do you recall that Hebron Baptist was the location for shooting the opening scene of the 1993 Hallmark movie, “To Dance with the White Dog” starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy? I do because I, along with what seemed like a cast of thousands, were extras in the made for TV movie. It was a fun, interesting and memorable experience being part of making a movie. Incidentally, we were at Hebron that day from dawn to dusk and the temperature soared above 100 degrees F. that afternoon. We sure didn’t feel like movie stars.

Horse enthusiasts Patricia Fennessy M.D. and daughter, Reese Fennessy, 10, were in Lexington, Ky., this past weekend going especially to attend the 30th anniversary of Breyer Fest at the Kentucky Horse Park, a popular model horse company that has everything a horse lover adores such as horses, and ponies, and live demonstrations of the equine that are the models. This year’s event was a salute to horse heroes such as the mounted police. They also attended the 83rd annual Junior League of Lexington Charity Horse Show, the world’s largest outdoor American Saddlebred show. The mom and daughter also found time to go the Keeneland Race Track as well as visit Claiborne Farms — most notable because this is where Secretariat stood as stud and later died.


Elsewhere, Sylvia Roland is globetrotting this summer. She and her mother Lela Pumphrey spent 10 days in Morocco, a country of beautiful greenery and desert; ancient sites along with modern buildings, agriculture, and tourism are their top economic drivers. Sylvia and her mom toured Casablanca and then went to Fes and visited the king’s palace, the Jewish Quarter, and the interesting Medina. They also visited other villages such as Tonda Gorge, Ait Ben Haddou, and a trip into the Sahara Desert for a camel ride. The twosome concluded the tour in Marrakech, where they saw a snake charmer handle a cobra among other sights followed by a day trip to Tangiers at the northern tip of Morocco, and traveled by ferry to Spain. The two were home only a few days before flying off to Peru for another adventure.


Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.