Local astronaut to receive recognition

Bob Stark, owner of Ohio Pressure Wash, hoses down the lunar module memorial on Parkman Road NW on Friday, which Stark offered his service would do for free. The memorial is located on the site where astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to land on the Moon, had his first flight about an airplane on July 26, 1936.

WARREN — A famed astronaut and Warren resident will finally receive the recognition he deserves at the Lunar Module Memorial.

The Lunar Module Memorial on Parkman Road NW may draw more attention to the exploits of astronaut Neil Armstrong but an unsung hero of the space program — Dr. Ronald Parise — will be honored with an official Ohio Historical Marker.

Parise was a former Warren resident who graduated from Western Reserve High School in 1969, the same year Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. Parise was inspired by Armstrong much like many other Americans but was determined to make his dream of going into space a reality. Parise graduated from Youngstown State University with a bachelor’s degree in science and a minor in math, and later received a master’s degree in 1977 and a doctorate in 1979 from the University of Florida in astronomy.

During his career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Parise went into space twice aboard the space shuttles Columbia in 1990 and Endeavour in 1995. When the Columbia was later destroyed on re-entry in 2003, an experiment of Parise’s involving Internet communications equipment was aboard. Parise died of brain cancer in 2008.

However, the efforts to recognize Parise have had their share of difficulties, with the first discussions taking place several years ago between James Valesky, founder of the Warren Heritage Center and photographer Peter Perich, who organized the monument’s construction. At first it was considered honoring Parise with a plaque, but Valesky didn’t think it was sufficient.

“Ron’s a real hometown hero. He deserves more than a plaque,” Valesky said.

A bust or monument also was considered, but was too expensive. Finally, Valesky contacted the Ohio Historical Society, which approved the Ohio Historical Marker about a year ago. It will feature a picture of Parise with the story of his life and achievements.

The marker cost about $3,000, while added funds for installation, landscaping and future maintenance would cost approximately $5,000.There is about $1,000 in the bank so far, but if the funding campaign hasn’t reached its goal by the deadline, Valesky said an anonymous donor approached him and said he would cover the rest of the cost.

The marker will be located in the grass to the right of the entrance gate, making the tribute to Parise the first thing visitors see at the memorial. The memorial itself was started in 2001 when Perich went to the city for permission to use the site, which is where the old Warren airport was located and where Armstrong took his first flight aboard a Ford Tri-motor airplane at the age of 6.

Everything at the memorial was made by volunteers and the Lunar Module itself was built by volunteers from the Trumbull Career and Technical Center at night, requiring approximately 3,000 man hours to complete. Maintenance for the memorial — from grass cutting to weeding — is also done by volunteers, many of whom remain anonymous, such as a painter who recently gave the memorial’s two rockets a fresh coat of paint, according to tour guide Dan Mathey.

“It is amazing that people do care and want to see something like this continue,” Mathey said.

Bob Stark of Ohio Pressure Wash was one of those volunteers, who offered his services to clean the memorial for free on Friday. Initially contacted by Mathey to see about an estimate for cleaning the memorial, Stark instead volunteered to do it himself at no cost after hearing about how much local children enjoyed the memorial.

“When he contacted me about getting it cleaned, I said I’ll do it,” Stark said. “Thirty-two years ago, I had a dream of owning my own business, and this place here shows kids that they can follow their dreams.”

The dedication will be 11 a.m. May 24, a date that was chosen because it is Parise’s birthday. Aside from local officials who will attend the ceremony, Parise’s mother and former classmates will be there to speak about Parise and his accomplishments.