OBITUARY: Space Program Veteran George A. ‘Jim’ Ogle of Merritt Island Passes Away at 83

By  //  August 22, 2020

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In retirement Jim volunteered as a docent for KSC Visitor Complex where he shared his personal stories

It is with great sadness that the family of George A. “Jim” Ogle announced he passed away suddenly on August 15, 2020, at the age of 83. Jim was in the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the historic launch of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission on July 16, 1969, and would later describe it as one of the most exhilarating moments in his life.

Jim was in the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the historic launch of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission on July 16, 1969, and would later describe it as one of the most exhilarating moments in his life.

BREVARD COUNTY • MERRITT ISLAND, FLORIDA – It is with great sadness that the family of George A. “Jim” Ogle announced he passed away suddenly on August 15, 2020, at the age of 83.

Jim grew up in Lake Worth, Florida, where his father hooked him on fishing at a very young age. His lifetime love of fishing and throwing his cast net would eventually earn him the nickname “The Islander.”

He later passed that love on to his sons, who as children, would follow behind their father with a bait sack as he trolled the river for finger mullet.

When he was 8 years old, Jim suffered a life-altering accident while riding the bus home from Sacred Heart Catholic School.

A speeding taxi cab driver collided with the side of the bus where Jim and several other children were riding. As a result of the impact, Jim’s leg was mangled and nearly severed, so doctors recommended the leg be amputated below the knee. But his father pleaded with the doctors to do whatever it took to save his son’s leg.

After seven surgeries and countless prayers by family, friends, and the nuns at Sacred Heart Catholic School, Jim’s leg was successfully reattached. Miraculously, he walked out of the hospital six months later.

“I do believe the prayers were answered,” Ogle said many years later. “And I can say with true conviction that I had been the recipient of a very special occurrence known as a ‘miracle.’”

Though his leg was saved, the doctors told Jim and his family he shouldn’t play sports again due to the high risk he would completely lose the leg if it were re-injured.

But Jim didn’t let that stop him. He became a baseball pitcher where he could put more of the focus on his strong right arm.

Amazingly, during his senior year, Jim earned the opportunity to play baseball for Lake Worth High School. Jimmy threw a no-hitter and performed so well in other games that year the local newspaper took notice.

Sportswriters heralded his success with multiple stories about Jim overcoming a devastating childhood injury to become the team’s ace pitcher.

After high school, Jimmy began to pursue a passion for aerospace that began after he witnessed his first rocket launch in 1950 when his family was living in Cocoa, Florida.

Jim was throwing his cast net for fish along the Banana River when he saw the bright flame from one of the Air Force’s first rocket launches soar through the sky on its way into space.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Jim Ogle, third from left, was part of an exciting live panel discussion on Space Coast Daily TV about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Joining Ogle in the Space Coast Daily-Friday Night Locker Room Mike Erdman Cadillac Studios were colleagues, left to right, John Tribe, Ted Reece, Lee Solid, Jim Stone and Bill Heink. SEE THE VIDEO HERE.

Jim’s path into aerospace would lead him to join a team with even higher aspirations.

He began his career as a checkout engineer with Douglas Aircraft in 1964 after graduating from Georgia Tech with a degree in electrical engineering. Later, he became a launch console operator in the blockhouse and firing rooms for the beginning of NASA’s moon program.

Those early launches of the Saturn rocket led to one of the greatest technological achievements of the 20th century:
the landing of American astronauts on the surface of the moon.

Jim was in the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the historic launch of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission on July 16, 1969, and would later describe it as one of the most exhilarating moments in his life.

After the final Saturn launch in 1975, Jim joined Rockwell International after it won the contract to build the Orbiter Vehicle for the Space Shuttle program. Jim spent the next 35 years working on the Shuttle program until the very last launch in July of 2011.

Several days after the final space shuttle came back from space, Jim received the first and only layoff notice of his career.

Jim Ogle, left, with longtime friend and colleague Lee Solid during a live panel discussion on Space Coast Daily TV about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Jim and Lee, along with John Tribe, were neighbors for more than 30 years in the Croton River Estates community on Merritt Island.  SEE THE VIDEO HERE.

In retirement, Jim was able to continue his passion for space. He volunteered as a docent for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where he shared his personal stories and answered questions from throngs of curious tourists about his work on the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs.

“What a beautiful ride I experienced during those wonderful, exciting, and sometimes sad, 51 years,” Ogle recently recalled during an interview with his son. “I consider myself truly blessed to have been a part of it.”

Jim is survived by his wife of 49 years, Barbara, sons James and Jason, and daughter Kathryn. He is also survived by his eight grandchildren, his sister Mary Nail of Cocoa Beach (Danny), nieces Debbie and Tiffany, and nephew Derrol.

In lieu of flowers, donations to can be made to the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame at SpaceWalkOfFame.org

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