BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Boulder has always been proud to claim Scott Carpenter as a native, and on Thursday friends, family and residents remembered the pioneer.
One of the most popular parks within the city is named after Carpenter, and on Thursday night flowers and a sign were placed at the park’s entrance. The sign read “Rest In Peace. Mr. Carpenter. Local Hero.”
Carpenter was much more than an astronaut to those who admired him. He was a pioneer.
“Scott was one of the very first people to go into space, and that makes him a true explorer,” said Jim Voss, a former astronaut.
Voss said he was in awe of the Mercury 7 astronauts, of which Carpenter was a member.
“They held a very special place in our minds and our hearts, and we revered them,” he said.
Susan Jane Dillon knew a different side of Carpenter. She was his sweetheart at Boulder High School and a lifelong friend.
“He was charming, very personable. A fabulous dancer,” she said.
Dillon, a Leap Day baby, told CBS4 Carpenter gave her an orchid on her 16th birthday and made her a promise.
“‘For the rest of your life, on your real birthday, I will send you an orchid,’ and he has never missed,” she said.
Dillon remembers watching anxiously after Carpenter completed his orbit and was nearly lost upon landing.
“He said it was just unbelievable. He felt sort of out of body,” she said.
Carpenter, who lived in Vail before his death, returned to Boulder last year for the re-dedication of his park. Voss said it was a fitting tribute.
“Every time I ride by Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder, I’ll think about him again,” he said.
Carpenter attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was one credit shy of his degree, but the university gave it to him anyway, saying he had more than earned it through his training as an astronaut.