Kim Marsella’s grandpa inspires friendship with Neil Armstrong

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Neil Armstrong with Kim Marsella

If you enjoyed last week’s blog post on Kim Marsella, you’ll love this delightful postscript…

Recap: After Ava Goldberg died of a car crash in 1988, daughters Kim and her sisters moved in with Ava’s parents, Leilah and Marvin Goldberg, in Woodbridge, CT. Many grandparents consider it their right to spoil their grandchildren (guilty as charged). Marvin exhibited more discipline.

Anticipating a paid internship in college, Kim, a sophomore, asked for a car to drive around campus. Marvin suggested Kim get a job. In fact, a job working for him. Marvin was an electrical contractor. In 1994, Kim became an electrical assistant. (To this day, friends ask her to wire and rewire switches, lamps and ovens.) That summer Kim and her grandfather commuted to and from Newton, CT, to the job site his company was hired to complete (new road with 25 homes). Kim lugged ladders, wired dining room light fixtures and circuit breakers, installed plug plates. The skin on her fingers turned raw from working with wires, tools and lug nuts. But Kim got her first car—a new blue Toyota Paseo.

Kim Marsella and grandfather Marvin Goldberg.

Kim dancing with her grandfather.

And she and her grandpa became pals.

4 years later, at dinner one night, Kim asked Marvin a question. “Grandpa,” she said. “You’ve lived a long time. What’s been the greatest experience in your life?”

Marvin paused. “Good question,” he said. “I need some time to think about it.”

A few minutes later, Marvin said, “I’ve got it. When I was a boy, my parents used to tell me a story about the boy in the moon. In 1969, a man landed on the moon. And I was alive to see it.”

Marvin died in 2006. Two months after losing her beloved grandfather, Kim attended the Air Show in Reno, NV. At the time, Kim was director of global travel for Atlas Air. Her significant other, Scott Dolan, was senior vice president of United Airlines. The couple were guests in the private box of Rolls Royce Engines, a supplier to United. As luck (smiley face) would have it, another guest in that box was Neil Armstrong.

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Marvin Goldberg earlier in life.

Kim told the first man on the moon about the conversation she’d once had with her grandpa. “He smiled,” she says. “But he was humble about it.”

Over 4 years, encountering each other at Rolls Royce Engines events, Kim and Scott became friendly with Neil and Carol Armstrong. In Indiana, during the Indy 500, Rolls Royce sponsored a golf tournament. Neil Armstrong requested Kim and Scott in his foursome.

Despite Kim’s golfing prowess, it was match play. Kim and Neil were defeated by Carol and Scott. But Kim felt like a winner in any case.

“Neil Armstrong was kind, polite and reserved,” Kim says. “He reminded me of my grandfather. You could tell he was thinking but spoke only when he had something to say. His answers were short and to the point, but sweet and endearing. Every time I saw him I felt comforted. It reminded me that my grandpa was somewhere watching over me, like the boy in the moon.”

Thanks, Kim. Your story follows the recent death of John Glenn, whose 1962 flight as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero. Thanks for sharing your brush with another all-American hero. And for reminding us how lucky we are to have such modest, brave human beings blazing trails for us all.

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2 thoughts on “Kim Marsella’s grandpa inspires friendship with Neil Armstrong

  1. Delin

    Love the new story about Kim and her grandfather
    Grandparents are the best of the best !
    I have six grand kids ! And hope I am remember as I remember mine !
    Happy holidays
    Delin

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