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Richard Gordon lands in Kingston

 - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

KINGSTON — Who says you can’t come home again? Especially when it’s your birthday. Captain Richard Gordon made a perfect landing in his hometown of Kingston Friday morning, bringing crowds to the elementary school named in his honor.

Gordon is a former NASA astronaut and is one of the few individuals in the world who can say they have traveled to outer space.

On Sept. 12, 1966 Gordon served as a pilot for the three-day Gemini XI mission which orbited the Earth. But his shining moment in a long line of accomplishments came when he took the command module pilot seat on Apollo 12, from Nov. 14-24, 1969 during the second lunar landing.

In total, Gordon completed two space flights, compiling 315 hours and 53 minutes above the stratosphere.

“The last time he came to the school was when it was dedicated (in 1994),” said Gordon Elementary Principal Claudia Alves. “We found out about three weeks ago that he wanted to come visit, and everyone is excited about it. He’s a native son. What are the odds of an astronaut coming from our neighborhood?”

Gordon was all smiles during his return to his hometown.

“I always say the best part of a voyage is coming home. This is home,” he said. “This is very special to me.”

Having the school named in his honor is something Gordon said he truly cherishes.

“It’s quite an honor and it’s a legacy,” he said. “I’m grateful for it. My family homesteaded in Kingston in the 1800s. This is where my family roots are at.”

Gordon said seeing the Earth from space is something he will never forget.

“That’s probably the most significant part of the trip. When we got into space, we discovered Earth,” he said. “That’s significant.”

When Gordon addressed the student body during the assembly, he said he was amazed by the number of faces he saw in the gymnasium.

“There’s more people in here today than when I was growing up in Kingston,” he said. “I think the population was 273 when I lived here.”

North Kitsap School District board member Dan Delaney said Gordon’s visit to Kingston is something students in the audience will remember for years to come.

“When these kids grow up they will be able to tell their children they saw astronaut Richard Gordon in person,” he said. “It’s something that can be passed on through generations.”

A handful of Gordon’s classmates from North Kitsap High School’s class of 1947 were in attendance, witnessing their long-time friend’s return.

“We just saw Richard Sept. 5 at our 60th high school reunion,” said Lorene Howerton. “It’s fantastic for these kids to see him today. His name has been around here for a long time.”

Fellow class of 1947 alumna Louise Love attended school with Gordon during her childhood.

“He was well liked. I went to school with him since the first grade,” Love said. “He’s a very special person and we’re proud to have him as one of our classmates.”

NKHS class of 1948 alumnus Jack Minert played baseball with Gordon during their days as youth in Kingston.

“I was the catcher and he was the pitcher,” Minert said. “He was lefty, and in those days they were few and far between.”

During the assembly, Gordon showed students a video detailing the missions he accomplished during his time as an astronaut. Following the presentation, students asked Gordon a variety of questions, presented him with gifts, sang him a birthday song and last but not least — presented him with a birthday cake.

The festivities concluded when Gordon cut the ribbon signifying the opening of the school’s new DaVinci Room, which encourages mathematic, scientific and creative thinking by students.

“Last year at the Gordon Spring Fling auction, $45,000 was raised. $8,300 of that went towards the DaVinci Room,” Alves said. “We’re glad to have Richard Gordon here to dedicate the opening of the room.”

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