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Gerald Egan

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On Oct. 11, 2012, the angels advanced gracefully and cradled our beloved Gerald in their loving arms, and heaven-bound, they flowed through the Celestial Gates, entering that bourne from which no traveler returns. Gerald's earthly journey began Jan. 19, 1931. He was the fourth child of James J. and Martha Jern Egan. After Catholic elementary school, he attended Attica High School, graduating in 1948. Gerald served his country admirably, enlisting in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. After his wartime service and honorable discharge, he attended the University of Buffalo under the Gl Bill. While attending the University of Buffalo, he met Phyllis Reitz, a University of Buffalo nursing student, at a Veterans' Club dance. In 1955 they married. After earning a BS in engineering, Gerald accepted a position with NASA as an aerospace engineer. His first assignment at Langley Research Center, Langley, Va., lasted for 25 years as he served with honor and distinction. At Langley, Gerald specialized in the design, development and testing of mechanical components for manned and unmanned flight systems and lifting body spacecraft configurations. He served as the design and logistics manager of the Lunar Orbital Project and was instrumental in the systems design and the training of personnel in the critical mechanical operations of LDEF, ERBE, and TIROS spacecraft. From Langley, Gerald advanced to NASA Headquarters Johnson Space Center in Clearwater, Texas. There he engaged in the preliminary design of our International Space Station. Here his expertise was directed to commonality and maintaining ability of inflight systems. In 1986, Space Station was placed on temporary hold and Gerald was promoted to WSTF where he managed three Shuttle Test Stands and the Propulsion Area Pressure Vessel certification process. At WSTF, he was also instrumental in the formation of the SCIAD Program, a NASA outreach to community school systems, in an effort to encourage interest in math and science. In this capacity, he visited private and public schools, working with teachers and students, expanding knowledge and understanding of scientific principles. His presentations furnished insight and afforded some fun in the fundamentals. Within the NASA organization, Gerald occupied many positions of trust and experienced the full tide of a 43-year long career, all of which was designed to deliver great promise to the future of our nation. He felt honored every day of his life to have contributed to American pride and the many precursors of today's space history. Gerald believed wholeheartedly that America must always be the world leader in space exploration, achievement and delivery. He was deeply involved in encouraging our youth to carry this spirit forward. Is it any wonder than that Gerald appreciated the pleasantry, humor and projected challenges of the Star Trek series? "To boldly go where no man has gone before..."- and if you were to listen intently, you might have even heard him say, "Beam me up, Scottie." As their life together progressed, Gerald and Phyllis became the loving parents of four children. As a proud father, Gerry was always protective as he instilled strong family values; the Catholic faith, honor, patriotism, respect, refinement, responsibility, generosity and love. As a result, each has achieved success in life and in their chosen professions. Gerald often referred to his children as his "greatest treasure" and his "gifts from God." Fondly, he called them the "amazing power of four." He was fully engaged as a family man; at home, through religious practice, chores, homework, tire swings and backyard BBQs. In social activity, he held volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and YMCA organizations. He attended school functions, participated in car pools, athletic practices, swim lessons, swim meets, camping, bingo, and taught the children how to sail. He also participated in pot lucks and outdoor birthday parties. After each, he would throw in the gentle reminder that the difference between try and triumph was just a little extra "umph." He gave his children the greatest of all possible gifts - unconditional love. Our family was full of joy. In more recent years, Gerald developed the hobby of silversmithing; creating his own line of Native American style jewelry which he called, "Sentiments." His Southwestern jewelry is worn with pride by many. He salutes the volunteer staff of the Munson Senior Center where he spent many enjoyable hours. A lifelong member of the Roman Catholic Church, Gerald served as a discussion group leader, catechist to high school youth, lector, and minister of the Holy Eucharist. As a member of the Knights of Columbus, he rose through the ranks to the 4th Degree and served as Faithful Navigator. He was currently a communicant of the Newman Center. Beyond a doubt, he knew Jesus was his Lord and Savior, and he felt especially close to God during this recent illness. He held a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Gerald lived his entire life with a smile on his face, a hearty handshake and an "I love you" hug to give away. His insights, good nature and his presence will be missed more than words can convey. Those who knew him loved him. The better they knew him, the more they loved him. His passing leaves a void in our hearts. Those left to cherish his memory are his loving wife of 57 years, Phyllis, and his devoted children: Sharon Orner (Colorado), Renee Kopacko (New York), Kenneth G. Egan (Las Cruces), Maura and Keith Egan (Las Cruces). He also leaves behind 10 grandchildren: Adria, Tera and Greg Orner (California); Joseph, Daniel, Rachel and John Paul Kopacko (New York) and Jack, Lauren and Mackenzie Egan of Las Cruces. One brother, Edwin E. Egan (New York) survives him. Gerald embraced all of us with his unique charisma, wit, wisdom, charm and immense affection. We will sorely miss his noble and resplendent spirit and we will treasure forever fond memories of a gracious, cheerful and caring gentleman. We will never forget him; we will love him forever. We invite you to the celebration of Gerald's Life, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1327 N. Miranda with a rosary at 9:45 a.m. and a mass to follow at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to be made to the http://www.woundedwarrierproject.org/. Entrusted to Baca's Funeral Chapels of Las Cruces and Sunset Crematory. 527-2222. Your exclusive providers of "Veterans and Family Memorial Care." For online condolences log on to www.bacasfuneralchapelslascruces.com.
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on Oct. 16, 2012
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