Fly Me To the Moon…The Story of Our Cousin Don

“For the first time we were united,

people around the world,

sharing a home,

on a small blue planet,

in a vast dark universe.”

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

 

 

 

“What do you want with that old stuff?”, Don’s eyes crinkled up, and he grinned.

“I’m going to do a little write-up”, I answered, with the certainty of an overconfident teenager. “I think it will make an interesting story.”

“If you think so.”, he smiled again, and assured me he’d ask his sister Ruth to forward some papers to me, in the mail.

 

Donald Burlingame Rutherford

 

That was July 1974, a few years after the moon landing, and I was knee-deep in a conversation about space, with my mother’s first cousin, Donald Rutherford. He and his wife, Rosemary, had driven from their home in Melbourne, Florida, and were spending time in Ogdensburg, with his sister Ruth, and their Aunt Nellie.  My Dad, Mother, my brother Roger, and his wife Ruth, and I, had come to Ogdensburg for the day, as we did several times each year, to visit with our American cousins.

It seems fitting, this week, on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, to do that ‘little write-up’, as I’d promised Don, so many years ago. True to his word, he sent those ‘papers’ about his work, to his sister Ruth, who passed them along to me.  Don’s career spanned the era of the formative years of the U.S. space agency, early missile testing, and beyond the Apollo missions at the Kennedy Space Center.

From me, his inquisitive younger cousin, who always enjoyed our discussions about space-ships, flying saucers, and Star Trek, the story that follows is a tribute to Donald Burlingame Rutherford, an engineer, working in the earliest days of the space program. Although, he’s no longer with us, passing from this life in 1994, at the age of 86, I hope he would approve, and that I’ve put all his ‘papers’ to good use.

 

 

 

From Lisbon to Ogdensburg

Donald Rutherford, and his sister, Ruth, grew up in the family home at 320 Jersey Avenue, on a quiet residential street, in Ogdensburg, New York. Both born on the family farm in Lisbon, not far from the mighty St. Lawrence River, they spent their early childhood riding horses, playing in the sprawling yard of their country home, until their father, Fred Rutherford, accepted a position with International Harvester, when the family moved to Ogdensburg.

Ruth Rutherford with her brother Donald Rutherford, on the farm in Lisbon, in 1913

 

Donald and his sister Ruth, on the farm in Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, NY, with their horses

 

Donald Burlingame Rutherford at school – center of photo, (with a center-part in his hair) – 1920s

 

 

 

320 Jersey Ave Ogdensburg

320 Jersey Avenue, Ogdensburg, N.Y. – home to Fred and Ethel Rutherford and their children Donald and Ruth

 

“He’s a real whiz at math, and likes to solve problems. 

He’d be a shoe-in as an engineer!”

 

Don Rutherford at Clarkson U

Donald Burlingame Rutherford at Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York

“Don is noted for three things:  being late to classes, loafing in the radio shack,

and week-end trips to Prescott…”

 

 

Don's grad announcement 1930‘The Republican Journal’,  June 2, 1930 p. 10

“He was a member of the American Society of Electrical Engineers.”

 

Clarkson programme 1

Clarkson University, Programme, Class of 1930

 

 

(from the Clarkson University programme, 1930)

 

 

 

Clarkson news clipping

 

A few years after he finished his studies at Clarkson U., the twenty-six year-old Donald

asked his sweetheart, Ida, to marry him. 

She was a high-school teacher, and a graduate of St. Lawrence University.

 

Don and Ida's wedding announcement

‘The Advance News’,  July 1, 1934 p. 9

“Both are well known and highly esteemed…”

 

Ida Charter marriedThe Hammond Advertiser July 5, 1934 p. 1

Tragedy in Dayton, Ohio

It was in the warm spring days of May, when Don Rutherford, and his young wife Ida, arrived in Dayton, Ohio.  Don had accepted a position as one of the engineers, hired to enhance the flight capabilities of U.S. aircraft, at Wright Field.   They had barely settled in their new home when tragedy struck the young couple.  Driving near the Englewood Dam, on route 48, a truck collided with their car.  Ida was rushed to the Good Samaritan hospital, and sadly, Ida passed away on June 5th.  She was 37.

Donald later filed a lawsuit, seeking damages from the driver of the truck, Clara Strickle, owner of a local restaurant in Xenia, near Dayton.

The Journal Herald, Dayton, Ohio, June 6, p. 2

 

‘The Ogdensburg Journal’, June 9, 1942, p. 5

 

‘The Dayton Herald’, June 20, 1942 p. 14

 

 

 

In 1947, the U.S. government created the United States Air Force, and that same year, combined Wright Field with nearby Patterson Field, creating Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

 

Don Rutherford

Donald Burlingame Rutherford during his days at Wright-Patterson Air Base

 

Seven years after Ida’s death,

Donald found love again,

and married Rosemary Schumacker Gillen,

a colleague from the Wright-Patterson Air Base.

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Gillen, when she and Donald Rutherford were dating, 1948

 

It was also Rosemary’s second chance at love.  In 1927, when Rosemary was 21, she married Charles Gillen, and they later divorced.  They had one son, Charles Raymond Gillen, born 1933.  Charles Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-1970.  He married a young lady from Paris, Solange Riffet, at Fort Monroe, in Virginia, in 1962.  Sadly, Rosemary’s son, Charles, became very ill, and passed away in 1987, at the age of 54.

Rosemary rarely spoke about her career, although it is known that she held positions at Wright Field, later Wright-Patterson Air Base, Patrick Air Force Base, as well as Cape Canaveral.

 

‘The Dayton Daily News’, June 6, 1949, p. 26

 

Don at awards dinner

Don and his second wife, Rosemary, on their wedding day, with friends, in 1949

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, with Don’s mother Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, and Donald B. Rutherford, with Don’s 1949 Chrysler Windsor

In 1956, Donald was sent to Kessler Air Force Base, in Mississippi, for specialized training in Electronic Countermeasures.  He, along with his colleagues, were focusing on the production of missiles specifically designed to deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems.  Keesler opened a ground support training program for the Atlas Missile, and Donald was among the first sent for their training program.

 

 

Test launch of the Atlas

 

 

In the summer of 1956, Donald was sent for additional training at M.I.T., in missile guidance, dynamic measurements, and control.

 

 

 

 

In the spring of 1959, Donald trained with Martin on the MGM-13 TM-76B tactical surface-launched missile.

 

 

MGM-13 – test launch

 

 

Don Rutherford Patrick Air Force Base 1956

Don Rutherford, standing,  (dark shirt), at the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida,  June 7, 1956.

 

“An Act to provide for research

into the problems of flight

within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere,

and for other purposes.” 

The National Aeronautics

and Space Administration (NASA)

was established on October 1, 1958,

 

Don Rutherford Nike Rocket 1963

Preparation of NIKE Rocket to  be fired, simultaneously with the MINUTEMAN, March 18, 1963, U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center – Don Rutherford (standing-rt.)

Minuteman missle test launch

‘Minuteman’  test launch

 

Don Rutherford Air Force Missile Test Center 6-5-63

Don Rutherford (left) with colleagues, at a Pre-Launch Test, U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center June 5, 1963

 

Don Rutherford Missile test center

Pre-Launch Test 3267, June 5, 1963, Air Force Rocket Test Center in Blockhouse – Don Rutherford standing – rear

Don and Fred Rutherford

Donald B. Rutherford with his father Fred Allan Rutherford

Don Rutherford service award

Donald B. Rutherford receives Certificate of Service, from the U.S. Air Force

 

 

Donald worked at Patrick Air Force Base, where he took part in a variety of missile, and manned and unmanned space programs in the 1960s.

Both Don and Rosemary were offered positions at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and they worked there for many years.

On February 6, 1959, the first successful test firing of a Titan Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was achieved.

NASA’s ‘Mercury’ and ‘Gemini’ space flights were launched from Cape Canaveral, as well as the ‘Apollo’ flights.

 

 

rocket 1

Donald Burlingame Rutherford  – rt.

50th anniversary of Donald Rutherford’s graduation – 1930-1980

Donald and Rosemary’s home in Melbourne, Florida.
Lt to rt:  Ruth Rutherford, Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, Fred Rutherford, Donald Rutherford, Nellie Rutherford

When Don and Rosemary retired, they purchased two blocks of properties near their home in Melbourne, Florida, renting them out.  In their spare time, they spent many happy days on their sailboat, along the sunny Florida coast. Both were dog lovers, and always had two or three well-loved, and well-spoiled pets in their home.

Don and Rosemary in their retirement years

 

One of their favourite television shows was ‘Jeopardy’.  As they became older, they even planned their day so they could be home in time to watch the show.  One night after ‘Jeopardy’ was over, Rosemary could not wake Don.  He had passed away during the show.  He was 86 years old.

 

Brookeside Cemetery, Waddington, NY

 

 

 

letter of condolences from Clarkson University to Rosemary Rutherford, 1994

 

Rosemary (Schumacker) Rutherford, passed away on Valentine’s Day, 1996, age 90, at the Meridian Nursing Home, Melbourne, Florida.  Her son predeceased her in 1987, and he and his wife, Solange, had no children.  There were no known survivors.

Rutherford siblings – 1889

Don Burlingame Rutherford’s father (left)

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford’s father (center)

L – Fred Rutherford, middle – Charles Rutherford, rt – May Rutherford, photo: 1889, other siblings: Nellie Rutherford, born 1897, Robbie, died in infancy

Fred and Charles were brothers.  Fred Allan Rutherford and his wife Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, had two children:  Donald Burlingame Rutherford, and Ruth Rutherford.  Charles Herbert Rutherford and his wife Dorothy (Woolsey) Rutherford, had four daughters and one son:  Dorothea ‘Dolly’ Rutherford (Glover),  Mildred ‘Mill’ Rutherford (Waterhouse) , Audry Rutherford (Stafford), Muriel Rutherford, and Jack Rutherford.

family in OgdensburgStanding l.to rt. Ruth (Parks) Stafford, Roger Stafford, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Tobias ‘Tib’ Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Rosemary Rutherford, Donald Rutherford, – seated – Ruth Rutherford (Don’s sister) and her little dog Rastus.   photo: 1976, Stafford family collection.

 

 

NASA began with a group of engineers working with the NACA, (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics ), along with engineers transferred from the Vanguard program and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.  Toward the end of the 1960s, there were over 14,000 engineers working on design and testing, of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rocket-propulsion systems, many of these equipped to operate beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

These engineers, men and women, worked in anonymity. Many worked at test facilities, and most weren’t able to discuss their work with friends, or even family. Some worked on projects for years, and faced failure after failure, before achieving any success. They were the unsung heroes of the space program, and this story is dedicated to the many thousands, who worked behind the scenes, in the shadow of heroes.

 

“For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon, and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace,”  John F. Kennedy, 1961.

 

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(all documents and photos received from Donald B. Rutherford, were stamped ‘Declassified’, by the U.S. Air Force)

Grey November Skies

It was one of those mornings in the late fall, when the sky was so grey that you couldn’t tell whether it was daylight, or still dark outside. Halloween was over for another year, and the snow hadn’t begun for the season, to remind us that Christmas was coming. It was just one of those four or five dark, grey, lifeless weeks in between the colourful fall, and the bright snowy winter, when Mother Nature didn’t seem to know what to do.

bare trees 2

I headed downstairs that Saturday morning, and took a quick look at the clock on the kitchen wall. With the sky so overcast, I couldn’t even guess what time it was, and I didn’t have a clock in my bedroom upstairs. All I knew was the weekend was here, so I didn’t have to go back to Glen Tay School for another two days.

The whole house seemed gloomy. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, and opened the door, the living room was empty. Where was everybody?

old fashioned living room

The only room that seemed to be lit up in the old house was the kitchen, and as I walked through the living room, and got close enough to see, Mother was in full production, as usual.

Mother in the kitchen

She had the old aluminum meat grinder attached to the kitchen table, and had bags of flour and sugar, and boxes of baking soda and baking powder lined up along the edge.

Christmas cake ingredients

There were packages of raisins and candied pineapple, and currants and cherries, all over the top of the freezer, as though they were waiting their turn to go into the huge white ceramic mixing bowl. It looked as though some kind of dried fruit was making its way through the meat grinder, and dropping into one of the melamine bowls waiting below.

grinding fruit

“Can you run down to Cavanagh’s, and pick up some molasses for me?”, she said without looking up from the meat grinder. “I forgot to pick some up at the IGA last night, and I’ll need some for the Christmas cake.”

“Sure.”, I said, and picked up the three quarters that were already sitting there waiting for me, at the end of the table.

three quarters

I grabbed my blue corduroy jacket off of the hook, and headed outside. As soon as I opened the door the cold air hit me, and I remembered how the weather had been getting cooler and cooler these past weeks. It felt cold enough to snow, I thought to myself, and I picked up my old, red, battered bike, still lying on the same spot where I’d left it in the yard, the night before.

old red bike 2

Brrr. It felt even colder once I was on the bike and moving. The lane was downhill, and I coasted all the way onto the Third Line. I had a quick check for cars, and turned right, still coasting for a bit, then I began to pedal. Ugh, Heney’s dogs!, I thought. I needed a newer, faster bike, or a car, or a spaceship; something to get me past Heney’s faster.

As soon as I saw Conboy’s house, I pedaled like mad. I should have eaten breakfast first, I thought. I could use some energy.

I made it past Heney’s unscathed. They didn’t even come out barking that day. They must have been feeding them or something, I thought. Whew! That was easy.

I was moving pretty fast, and made it to Cavanagh’s in no time. Helen was working, and she pointed out the molasses, and asked how everyone was doing, just like she always did.

molasses

I paid for the molasses, and picked up my bike where I’d left it; propped up against the front entrance of the store.

cavanaghs-store-black-and-white-without-garage

Since it was Saturday, I decided that I’d take the long way home. I just didn’t feel like riding past Heney’s again and was sure those dogs would be back out on the road, full of food now, and ready to chase me up the Third Line.

I crossed the road and headed up Cameron’s side road. I passed S.S.# 4 school, and was heading up toward Calvin Church.

S S # 4 School for book

This part of the trip was a bit harder, as it was uphill all the way.

Calvin United Church December 20140001

I passed the church, then up the road a bit more, and turned right onto the Fourth Line. It wasn’t long until I was down near Calvin and Marion Jordan’s place, and I slowed down a bit, as I rounded the corner, and headed toward the railroad tracks.

Tracks back the side road0001

I glanced down into the ditches and spots where I could usually find some flowers to bring home for Mother, but there was no colour in the ditches that day, and even the cattails had gone to seed in the swamp and looked dirty,white and furry. I didn’t see anything worth bringing home for a bouquet.

cattails autumn

When I finally arrived back in the yard, I threw down my bike, and walked into the kitchen.  I could smell the cake batter as soon as I opened the door. The batter for the Christmas Cake was pinkish. I’m not sure why it was that colour; maybe it was juice from the cherries. Mother had saved the bowl for me to clean, and it was sitting on the edge of the table. Mother said she would add the molasses in with the ground fruit, and that sure worked for me. I loved cleaning out the cake batter bowls. This was my kind of breakfast!

cake batter bowl

I’m not sure why the Christmas Cake had to be made so early. Mother said it had to ‘ripen’ and I was never really sure what she meant by that. It wasn’t like a green banana, or one of the green apples from back in the orchard. Still, it was part of the process of making the cake each year, and there was no point in arguing.

dark fruit cake

No matter what the reason for making the Christmas Cake in what seemed like the drabbest, dreariest part of the year, I liked to think of it as kind of a light at the end of a tunnel. It was so grey and colourless outside. The bright leaves were lying, lifeless on the ground. The birds had left the yard. I couldn’t find one bright, pretty flower to bring Mother for a bouquet; not even a cattail. Nature seemed to be in limbo; not sure what to do next.

Creek behind the house0001

Making the Christmas cake was the first sign that the brightest season of the year was on its way. In just a matter of weeks we’d be celebrating Christmas. Bit by bit, in the days ahead, we’d be making progress on our preparations. The Christmas cards would be signed and addressed. Betty Miller and Frances Dixon would begin organizing the Christmas concert at Calvin Church, and we’d all have our parts to study, and new songs to learn.

Dad would be stringing the Christmas lights on the big spruce tree near the house, any day now. Soon, we would be strolling back into the bush to size up the possible candidates for the Christmas tree, that would grace the corner of our living room.

Before too long, pans of fudge would be prepared, and all sorts of cookies and squares would be baked and stored. Crepe paper streamers would be brought out of storage, and old decorations glued and repaired.

So the grey days, I concluded to myself, were days of preparation. These were the days when we would have time to spend getting ready for Christmas. They were the days when we wouldn’t be distracted by the bright sun, and green grass, to go outside and play, but would stay indoors, and stroke things off of our to-do lists.

In its wisdom, Nature had given us quiet, thoughtful days like these,to focus on the things to come, because Christmas would be upon us in no time at all.

……………………………………………

Granny Rutherford’s Dark Fruit Cake

(should be baked a few weeks ahead, and allowed to ripen before Christmas)

2 cups raisins

1 1/2 cups of cherries

1 cup currants

1 cup dates

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 cups seeded raisins

1 cup pecans

1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit

1/2 cup candied pineapple

1/4 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

3 cups flour

1 cup butter

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp cloves

6 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

1/3 cup cold coffee

Mix fruit and nuts (may grind coarse or fine, as desired)

sift flour and spices and mix well

cream butter, and add sugar and eggs

Add dry ingredients

Bake at 300 degrees for 3 – 3 1/2 hours

………..

Allow to cool on baking racks

(double-wrap in plastic, then double-wrap in foil, and store in a cool dry place to ripen)

…………

Who was Granny Rutherford?

Dorothy Woolsey, born in Lincolnshire, England, was just sixteen years old when her mother Mary-Jane Foster Woolsey, passed away.  She often told the story of how they dyed her favourite red coat – black for her mother’s funeral.  In 1909 her father, William Woolsey, brought Dorothy and her siblings over to Canada, because his eldest daughter, Edith, had weak lungs, and the doctor advised him the air in Canada would be better for her.

Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford

Dorothy Woolsey at age 20, in 1914

They settled first in Winnipeg, and Dorothy’s older sister Florence, married, and moved to Saskatoon.  Dorothy went to visit, and she met a handsome young man named Charles Rutherford, a Mechanical Engineer, who came to Canada from St. Lawrence County, New York, to seek his fortune.  Dorothy and Charles fell in love, married, and settled in Edmonton, where their children Dorothea ‘Dolly’, Mildred ‘Mill’, Audry, Muriel, and Jack were born.

Mother and Granny Rutherford

Mother, (Audry Rutherford Stafford) age 18, with her mother, Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford, in front of their home in Edmonton in 1936.

Arlene Granny Mother

Arlene Stafford (Wilson), Granny Rutherford, and Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, 1967

…………………………………………………………………….

Christmas Cake recipe – in “Recipes and Recollections –  Treats and Tales From Our Mother’s Kitchen, available in local stores or online.  ISBN 978-0-9877026-0-9

recipes & recollections cover 1

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Bustling With Bats – Summer Nights in the Country

Image

As the fiery red July sun sank low on the horizon, finally disappearing behind Mitchell’s barn, the first bats of the summer evening swooped low, along the maple trees in our yard.  Their small, dark, shadowy figures glided effortlessly, along the lowest branches, and dotted the skies over the clothesline, at the side of the old house.

clothesline

The little brown bats returned to our yard every spring, and the mothers produced just one baby each year, around the middle of June.  By the end of July, the babies took their first flights, as they were weaned off of their mother, and began to eat insects.

bats baby

Although some people were afraid that the bats would fly into their hair, they made a high frequency sound that bounced back, and prevented them from colliding with anything – other than the mosquitoes they feasted on nightly.

Because they were nocturnal creatures, we never saw them in the daytime, as they hung upside down, under the eaves of the roof, or sought shelter in the attic, above the kitchen.  Around sunset each summer evening, they begin to soar around the yard, swooping and gliding, along the branches, seeking out the bloated mosquitoes that dined on us, as we sat outside in the evening.

bats tree

Mother and Dad didn’t mind sharing our yard with the bats. Our parents sat on their lawn chairs, enjoying a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies; Dad with a coffee in hand, and Mother with her lemonade.

lawn chairs

The summer days were hot, often humid, and the only form of air conditioning in the old house was to open a window, and hope for the best.  Sitting outside under the big maple trees in the evening was a nice way to cool down, and reflect on the events of the day.  We’d glance down the lane, watch the cars going by on the Third Line, and one at a time, turn on their headlights for the night.

country road night

The crickets and bullfrogs were in full chorus by then, as more and more bats appeared, and the sky became a dark cloak, shrouding their movements in secrecy.  Small flashes of light moved along the front garden, as the fireflies began their nightly parade, competing with the bats for our attention.

fireflies

As the summer season unfolded, there would be many nights like this.  We’d sit outside to cool down, after a long hot day, and we became the audience for the sunset performance of the small brown bats, and their aerial show.

Mother and Dad would eventually rise from their lawn chairs, and fold them up for the evening; carrying their empty cups, and the scattered crumbs remaining on the cookie plate.

cookie crumbs

The bats would continue their hunt for food long after we’d gone into the old house, gliding and darting in the yard, as we slumbered peacefully through the warm summer night.

sleeping child

 

 

………………….

 

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line, ISBN 978-0-9877026-30)

LC Calendar

 

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Great Aunt Clara’s Late June Roses

June roses

Although it didn’t look like much until late in June each year, around the third or fourth week of the month, the old rosebush, planted by Dad’s Aunt Clara Richards Carberry, sprang reliably back to life.  Great Aunt Clara had planted the rosebush back in the 1940s, along our fence, on the east side of the house, under the poplar trees.

It was an uncertain time when she planted that rosebush, the years between 1939 and 1945, when World War II raged on, separating families from loved ones, and prematurely ending young lives, as they fought bravely, on the front lines in Europe.

By the time that I was old enough to be aware of the rosebush, it had spread, as perennials will, and imparted a bright pink show of fragrant roses that stretched  for several yards, along the old fence.  For the entire five decades that we lived in the house, that rosebush bloomed faithfully. Without any pruning or watering, it gave us a lovely fuchsia display, each year, shortly after the summer solstice had passed, as though that was its signal to begin to bloom.

Maybe in such an unsettled time in our history, Clara wanted to create some beauty that would last; something predictable and steadfast; something she could count on.

So the rosebush bloomed like clockwork, late in June, each year for decades, watching silently from its sheltered patch under the poplars, along the fence, as one by one we finished our years in school, and left the old homestead, to go out and make our way in the world.  It watched all five of us come and go, and it thrived long past that time, for another quarter of a century, until our father passed away, and our Mother sold the house, and moved to town.

With a legacy like that, how could any of the short-lived ‘annual’ plants ever compare to this faithful old perennial, planted by Clara, so many years ago?  More importantly, how could we ever forget those bright, pink, fragrant roses, and how they graced the edge of our yard, so beautifully each year, late in June?

 

 

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