Perhaps you’ve seen the image of the footprint Neil Armstrong made in 1969 when he stepped onto the moon. But have you ever thought about where the shoe came from that he wore when making that “One small step for man ...”?
Raymond Dion of Summerville was an industrial engineer working at Garco-Raybestos Manhattan in North Charleston when the company got the contract to make the moon shoes, says Col. Thomas Dion, his son and a Citadel professor.
As Thomas Dion recalls, it was the responsibility of his father and his team at Garco to develop shoes to meet the specifications of those who had designed them.
“The shoes had to be integrated with the rest of the space suit,” Thomas Dion says.
While he does not know what they were made of, he figures temperature, pressure and the moon’s jagged surface had to be big considerations in developing the shoe.
When Armstrong walked on the moon, the father said: “Well, I left my footprint up there,” the son recalls. The elder Dion, born in February 1917, died March 25.
For Raymond Dion, a talented man with an inquisitive mind, there were many occasions to experience the satisfaction of a job well-done. Those usually had some connection to his family in Salem, Mass.
“He always had some project going on,” such as researching his family’s history, collecting and repairing clocks and furniture, raising flowers and vegetables, building boats and playing the violin.
He and his first wife, Eleanor Walker of Summerville, traced his roots first to Quebec, where his ancestor, Jean Guyon, a master stone mason, arrived in 1634, sent by France as a settler. Guyon worked on fortifications on the St. Lawrence River.
In mid-1995, Raymond Dion and his wife visited Mortagne, a walled town in the province of Perche. He visited the church where his ancestor built steps leading to the belfry and remarked they were well-worn but still sturdy.
Raymond Dion also had a keen appreciation for antique clocks, his son says. He liked all kinds.
“That’s just the long and the short of it. He probably had at least 75 clocks in his house. They all were ticking and tocking at the same time.”
The elder Dion searched for old clocks in need of repair at antiques shops. He enjoyed negotiating a good price for his finds, then taking them home to repair and restore.
Raymond Dion did the same with furniture, his son says. The elder Dion’s own father’s hobby was making furniture, and he taught that to his son. So finding a great chair with a missing leg was not a problem. Before restoring its finish, he simply would make a fourth leg for it.
“We’ve all got a house full of furniture he was involved with,” his son says.
Raymond Dion also built boats in Summerville with know-how he acquired at Dion Yacht Yard, his uncle’s boat yard in Salem, where he spent a lot of time watching carpenters work, says Thomas Dion.
“His father’s family were all seafaring. They spent their time on the water. He had a great-grandfather, a sea captain, who died while sailing and was buried at sea.
“He built the little blue jay, which we raced in local regattas in the early ’60s.”
As an adolescent, Raymond Dion took violin lessons and played during Saturday afternoon matinees on a local radio station.
Music is a hobby he would share with his children.
“We would play together,” his son says. “We would have a little ensemble. My sister, Eleanor, would play the piano and I’d play the clarinet. We made some noise.”
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.