Brenda 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 Challengerexplosion 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