A hero in her own right
She never sought the spotlight, but it was impossible for Annie Glenn to avoid all of the attention.
Her husband, John, the childhood sweetheart with whom she would share a love affair of more than 70 years, was an American hero — a decorated fighter pilot who flew missions during World War II and the Korean War; one of the Mercury Seven — our country’s first astronauts; the first American to orbit the Earth; a United States senator; and the oldest person to fly into space.
Yet Glenn, who died Tuesday at the age of 100 in a nursing home near St. Paul, Minn., as a result of complications brought on by COVID-19, will be remembered as a hero herself, becoming an advocate for those who suffered with speech disorders.
She became a center of attention in February 1962, when her husband made his three orbits around the planet. But her stutter made her look to avoid the attention. That changed after she participated in a program at the Communications Research Institute at what is now Hollins University in Roanoke, Va., and gained the skills she needed to speak in public.
She eventually would work as an advocate for those who suffered from communications disorders and would serve on boards of speech and hearing organizations as well as organizations that stood up for victims of child abuse. Glenn served on the board of her alma mater, Muskingum University, received an honorary degree from Ohio State University and taught speech pathology there. She had the privilege of joining her husband to dot the “i” during a halftime performance of the OSU Marching Band.
Her perseverance was the inspiration for the Annie Award, which is presented annually by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to a person who exemplifies her spirit, as well as the Annie Glenn Leadership Award, which is presented annually for inspirational work in speech and language pathology.
She was recognized with the Department of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.
Glenn was, as Gov. Mike DeWine said, “our most beloved Ohioan,” a person who “represented all that is good about our country.”
When John Glenn died on Dec. 8, 2016, we said it was a fitting tribute to remember him with the three words shared by the late Scott Carpenter, a fellow member of the original astronaut corps, as Glenn was launched into space on Feb. 20, 1962, and repeated through a recording when he rocketed upward aboard the space shuttle Discovery on Oct. 29, 1998. It’s in that spirit, then, that we today paraphrase Carpenter while we remember and wish “Godspeed, Annie Glenn.”