renda Jean Sartor came into this world blessed with unwavering
determination and a desire to live life to the fullest and make
every day count. God knew that these character traits would be
exactly the tools she would need to survive trapped in a physical
body compromised by the effects of Spinal Muscular Atrophy –
a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Diagnosed at nine months old, the
doctors only gave Brenda two years to live – but they couldn’t
see the passion and drive inside her little heart that would enable
her to live an extra three decades – accomplishing much
in her short 36 years.
Brenda’s engaging personality and desire to help find a
cure for her debilitating disease led the Muscular Dystrophy Association
to select her as both the Idaho State Poster Child in 1981 and
the Northeast Florida Poster Child in 1982 & 1983. Thousands
were touched when she read her poem “A Little Girl’s
Dreams” on TV during the MDA telethon.
But as much as she was devoted to helping find a cure for Muscular
Dystrophy, Brenda’s driving passion was outer space. She
followed the space flights, devoured books and movies about space
and space travel, became a sci-fi junkie, and even loved to eat
freeze dried ‘space ice cream.’ She was granted a
wish from the Make A Wish Foundation, and naturally chose a trip
to NASA! Her personalized behind-the-scenes tour complete with
an encounter with an astronaut in a space suit was one of the
highlights of her life.
From the time she understood what astronauts did, Brenda’s
goal was to become one and travel into outer space. Until Sally
Ride beat her to it, Brenda wanted to be the first female astronaut!
Undaunted, her goal then morphed to becoming the first disabled
person to go into space. She dreamed of being able to move about
freely in space – without the restrictions of gravity and
a diseased body.
At the age of 11, during one of Brenda’s many hospital
stays, the Challenger explosion occurred. The television
was blanketed with coverage, and Brenda, being bound to her hospital
room, was a captive audience to the round-the-clock coverage.
She was mesmerized by every detail of the launch and its mishap.
The future astronaut was so impacted by the tragedy that she switched
gears and fixed her sights on becoming an engineer and working
for NASA to help ensure that such a catastrophe would never occur
again. Brenda never wavered from this vision. She graduated from
Middleburg High School with honors, and proceeded to earn a bachelors
degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida.
Although her physical limitations kept her from becoming a NASA
employee, her desire to become an astronaut never wavered. Her
dying wish was to send part of her remains into space. Her thought
was that if she couldn’t travel into space as a ‘whole’
person, she still would be able to fulfill her dream of orbiting
the earth by sending her ashes after her passing.
We know that Brenda’s spirit is already high in the heavens
with Christ her Savior, and now the shell that encased it will
make Brenda’s long-awaited launch into the Great Beyond.
We salute our Hero, our Astronaut –
‘To Infinity and Beyond’
We will see you on the other side