Rocket man returns

SEATTLE — Even after travelling to the deep reaches of space, North Kitsap High School graduate Richard Gordon can still get excited by a trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Gordon, who graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1947 and went on to a famed career as a test pilot and astronaut, will return to the region the weekend of Nov. 2 to be honored by the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Gordon is one of the two recipients of the 21st Annual Pathfinder Awards, which honor residents of the Pacific Northwest who have made essential contributions to the development of aviation or aerospace.

Speaking from his home in Prescott, Ariz., Gordon said he was surprised when he was told he had won the award.

“I didn’t know I had been nominated,” he said. “It’s one of those awards I’m humbled by, and I’ll graciously accept it.”

Gordon grew up in Kingston, attending Kingston Elementary School and North Kitsap High School before attending the University of Washington.

He became a Naval aviator in 1953 and attended test pilot school in 1957, flying in planes such as the F8U, F11F, FJ, A4D, and F4H.

He logged more than 4,500 hours of flying time, and after becoming an astronaut in 1963, piloted the three-day Gemini XI mission in 1966.

Gordon set a new altitude record of 850 miles, docked with the unpiloted Agena spacecraft, and performed two spacewalks.

He also served as command module pilot for Apollo 12. Gordon logged 315 hours and 53 minutes in space before retiring from NASA and the Navy in 1972.

Gordon’s travel took him over the earth and above it, but he has never

forgotten the North Kitsap area in which he grew up. His great-grandparents homesteaded in Kingston a quarter of a mile where he grew up.

“My heritage is there. My ancestors are there. THe family goes back there a long way and I love the area and respect it,” Gordon said, adding that he still has a pair of doorstops made from the bricks of his old high school.

While Gordon has no close relatives left in North Kitsap (although he says he may have some cousins), he did invite on familiar North Kitsap name: Ted George.

George and Gordon grew up and attended school together, and Gordon is pleased his old friend plans to attend the ceremony at the Museum of Flight on Sept. 2.

“How many people can say they’ve had a friend for 70 years?” Gordon asked.

George will join several of Gordon’s relatives at the ceremony, which will also honor Milton Kuolt, who founded Horizon Air.

Gordon will be presented the award at former Apollo astronaut William Anders.

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