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Rick Husband, Mike Anderson ‘fervently lived for God’

HOUSTON (BP)–Astronauts Rick Husband and Michael Anderson were remembered in their home church Feb. 2 as men who fervently lived for God more than having achieved their childhood dreams of space flight.

Husband, 45, commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and payload commander Anderson, 43, were among the seven astronauts killed Feb. 1 when the spacecraft broke apart and disintegrated over north Texas just 16 minutes from their landing in Florida.

Both astronauts attended Grace Community Church, an interdenominational church in the southeastern Houston suburb of Clear Lake.

“Rick and Mike were men who fervently lived for God,” senior pastor Steve Riggle told thousands of mourners at three morning services Feb. 2, the AP reported. “We celebrate they are in the hands of the Lord.”

Husband, father of a son and a daughter, sang in the choir at Grace Community and led a weekly prayer group for fathers called “Dads in the Gap,” executive pastor Garrett Booth told The Washington Post. He had been a member for eight years.

Anderson, married with two daughters, had been at the church for four years. Although described as “kind of quiet,” The Post reported that Anderson — one of a few African American astronauts — was aware of his status as a role model. The newspaper said he often spoke at schools, encouraging students to follow their dreams.

Video tapes of both men recorded before their Columbia mission were played during the Feb. 2 services at Grace Community Church.

“If I ended up at the end of my life having been an astronaut, but having sacrificed my family along the way or living my life in a way that didn’t glorify God, then I would look back on it with great regret,” Husband said on the video. “Having become an astronaut would not really have mattered all that much.

“And I finally came to realize that what really meant the most to me was to try and live my life the way God wanted me to and to try and be a good husband to Evelyn and to be a good father to my children.”

Anderson’s tape included a mention that both he and Husband had faced a lot of challenges during their training.

“Rick and I both feel we were put on this mission for a reason and we have tried to meet all those challenges with prayer,” Anderson said in his video.

“Through these days of tragedy there comes, somehow, the light of triumph,” Riggle told the congregation, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t think you have one without the other, unless when tragedy comes, you quit.”

Recounting visits with the wives of both victims the evening the disaster occurred, Riggle told of Evelyn Husband showing the pastor documents her late husband had to sign in case of something tragic happening on the mission.

At the bottom of the documents, Husband wrote a special note to his pastor which said, “Tell them about Jesus. He means everything to me,” Riggle recounted.

Many Johnson Space Center employees wore their identification badges on lanyards around their necks to the services, the Chronicle reported.

Members of the Grace Community choir had an especially difficult time dealing with the absence of their famous member, posting a picture of Husband in his uniform in the choir room and sharing brief remembrances before turning to the task of comforting the congregation, the newspaper reported.

They described him as a warm and caring man with a beautiful voice, the newspaper reported. Husband had sung a solo on the church’s recording, “Rise Up and Praise Him,” and had participated in numerous Christmas and Easter productions.

While much of the spotlight fell on Sunday services held the day after the tragedy shocked the nation, the newspaper reported that Grace Community opened its doors all day Feb. 1 to members of the community who wanted to share their grief.

“Rick Husband is probably the godliest man I’ve ever met,” Steve O’Donohoe, one of the church’s ministers and a close friend of the astronaut, told Crosswalk.com during a phone interview Feb. 1. “He was such a lover of God and a worker for God, a kind person to everyone else. He’s the type of person everyone wants to be like. His wife is the same way.”

O’Donohue noted, “The only time Rick was not at church is when he was doing NASA business.”

The minister, referencing Anderson as well, said, “I know this much, I know that Rick and Mike are in heaven. I’m just sad because they are not with me. But we’ll be together again someday. I know that it would have been better for us for Rick and Mike to live, but they’re with Jesus now, and that’s better for them.”

Husband had told the Fresno Bee in an interview, “I am a strong believer and a Christian,” while training for the mission at the Johnson Space Center. “I look out that window at what a beautiful creation God has made.”

Executive pastor Booth told The Post that Husband had a personable quality and was eager to sign autographs for children at church events. “Even with all the successes, you could sit down and talk to him for a few minutes and feel like he was one of the guys,” Booth said.

In an official pre-flight interview with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Husband said, “… I think apart from NASA, the most enjoyable part of my life has been my time with my family. And, if you think about, probably, the pinnacle or the most exciting or memorable events, I would say probably my marriage and then the birth of our two children, and being there with my wife, and just the awesome experience of seeing a baby come into the world. And just being so overwhelmed with God’s goodness in blessing us with two wonderful children.”

Husband listed singing as one of his hobbies, going back to when he sang in the church choir as a boy. He sang throughout his formative years, joined the Texas Tech choir in college, participated in barbershop singing and then began singing at his Houston-area church.

Husband said he enjoys singing a song “if it’s something that you really think is a beautiful song and you can really belt it out, or sing it with the kind of precision that’s necessary to sing, just depending on the type of song it is. … I think [it] gives you a feeling of teamwork with the other members of the choir. It also gives you a feeling of almost release, in my particular case, because, it’s, I’d say, very relaxing.

“And then, especially with some of the songs that we sing in church, just being able to sing a song to tell God how much I love him, it just feels great. It really does. And I think it’s probably almost as good as exercising.”

Anderson, in his pre-flight interview with NASA, said hundreds of people had inspired and influenced him during his life. He listed his parents, teachers and ministers as examples.

“The people that you just came into contact with at the right time that just may have said something that turned a light on in your head and led you down a certain path,” Anderson said. “You know, those people you really just can’t thank enough.

“And as you look back at your life, there are just a million different things that have happened, just in the right way, to allow you to make your dreams come true. And you know, someone has all that under control.”

Anderson’s life also was celebrated in Spokane, Wash., at a small Baptist church he attend as a child and where his parents still worship.

“He was a young man who would always think deep,” the pastor, Freeman Simmons said of Anderson, according to the AP. “He never said much. … He would listen to what I said, especially scientific things.”

Anderson’s mother, Barbara, interviewed on CBS’ “Early Show” Feb. 3, recounted, “He told me some years ago the word ‘can’t’ should be taken out of the dictionary because there wasn’t nothing that can’t be done.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: RICK HUSBAND and MIKE ANDERSON.

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