Some of the folks in Alamogordo, New Mexico referred to George Hall as a "space nut." Some thought he was a bit eccentric. He always referred to himself as an "Earthbound Astronaut."
Even those who didn't know George personally knew him by his transportation. For decades he adorned his 1972 Cadillac with red, white and blue decorations and covered it with drawings and quotes about NASA, astronauts and the value of education. Before that, it had been a VW Bus that looked more like a parade float than a vehicle. That VW Bus was actually a traveling museum. If you even turned your head in his direction, George would throw open the doors to his mobile space bus and educate you with a myriad of materials about his favorite subject...space.
George Allen Hall was born on Jan. 12, 1917. When he was 7 years old, his family moved from El Paso, TX to Solano, New Mexico. Leaving the big city behind, the darkness of rural New Mexico's night sky, which is still a draw for star-gazers today, surely inspired George to begin "traveling through the universe in my imagination." He read of Columbus crossing the ocean without knowing where he was going and thought, "Why not me? But I want to go to space."
Shortly after beginning college, George took a job as a teacher in a one room school near Mosquero, NM. He later returned to college where he took a course in aviation, received his pilot's license, and joined the Air Force. He was getting closer to his dream.
In 1941, he joined the Marine Corps and was assigned as a non-commissioned officer with the 3rd Marine Air Wing. He was later transferred to the Flying Sergeants Training Center with his first duty station being at Midway. On Dec. 7, he and his crew were at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, wiping out their airplanes. After Pearl Harbor, George was sent back to Midway where the Japanese forces attacked and wiped out the planes again. He had survived two attacks.
On leave in 1943, he returned home to marry his sweetheart, Floreine Kuehn, who was a school teacher in Cimmaron. They later became the proud parents of Gordon and Shirley. After the war, he earned his Master's Degree from USC and did further graduate work at UCLA. After completing his own education, he and Floreine, as well as his two children and one of his grandchildren, continued the family legacy of teaching.
George was a much beloved Spanish and Audio-Visual Education Teacher in Alamogordo, remembered as much for his sense of humor and quirks as for his ability to reach out to young people. An advocate for volunteerism, he devoted countless hours to the International Space Hall of Fame which was built in Alamogordo in 1976. He also gave space talks in the schools and senior centers. He was an advocate for the advancement of the program throughout his life and even applied to be the first teacher in space on the ill-fated Challenger.
George left his earthly life behind on August 12, 2002. Although the dreams of a seven year old boy were never filled in life, George will now accomplish his goal thanks to Space Services Inc. His friends and family, who now include two great-grandsons, will share in the realization of George's dream when our Earthbound Astronaut is earthbound no more.
God Speed Kapa.