Memorial Spaceflights

Jim McCune

"Jim, Touch the Stars!"
1935 - 2012

Jim McCune was born on April 26, 1935 in Sweetwater, Texas to Lawrence “Mac” and Esther McCune. The eldest of two brothers, his early childhood was spent bouncing around between Texas and New Mexico, before moving to LaJunta, Colorado. It was here that he went to school and joined the Koshare Indian Dancing group which traveled across the country performing authentic Native American ceremonial dances.

Following high school, Jim went to Colorado University where he earned his bachelors and masters degree in physics. While dedicated to his education, he still managed to have some fun and mischief, with escapades such as painting the Flatirons with his rock-climbing crew. It was also while earning his Master’s that Jim took a dance class just to get close to a girl he liked. Winning her over, he and Gloria Rae Helart were married on August 1, 1964.

They spent a couple of years in Germany, working and traveling, before settling in Long Beach, California and having a son Ian, in 1970. While working for TRW, Jim had the opportunity to work on some of the early deep space satellites such as “Pioneer” and had always said that he wanted to make it into space some day. While dedicated to his work, he was completely devoted to his family; whether it be family vacations, playing games with his son at all day swim meets, or just helping with homework (even though his son may not have always appreciated the in-depth theory behind the answers at the time).

Following retirement, Jim and Gloria spent time traveling and visiting family, and taking classes together at Senior University. Jim also found passion in teaching basic computer classes for seniors through the university.

Diagnosed with cancer not long after learning of his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy with twins, he simply said he would do whatever treatment was necessary to make sure he was around to meet his granddaughters. Always one to keep his promise, he held on long enough to celebrate their first Christmas before passing away on January 27, 2012.

He leaves behind wife Gloria, son Ian, brother Michael, and granddaughters Murphy and Madison.

It is difficult to sum up the life of a man in a few short paragraphs. He grew up here, went to school there, did this and that…. Those words don’t accurately depict his thirst for knowledge, or being reserved, but engaging to all those who knew him. Those paragraphs don’t do justice to his sense of humor, responsibility, self-sacrifice, or to the depth of his loyalty. And his story can never fully convey the love that he had for those around him, and the love that was felt towards him.

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” - Leo Buscaglia

As his son, I feel fortunate that I never had to look further than my dad to find a hero.

Jim is flying on the Heritage Flight with his brother, Michael McCune.

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