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He Was A Rocket Mechanic April 16, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in News, Tom's Posts.

My father was a rocket mechanic during my childhood.  He had started in Florida during the Cape Canaveral years and moved to California when Vandenberg Air Force Base became the West Coast launching point for missiles and military satellites. When a grade school assignment came to interview someone who witnessed history, he told me about being on a team that experimented with launching rockets and trying to catch them with an airplane.  He wasn’t a scientist or an engineer.  He was one of the ground crew who worked to build and maintain the things that the scientists and engineers dreamed up. He was a blue-collar rocket man.

He was also a great father.  I loved the few times families were allowed on base to tour the place where he worked.  I got to stand next to real rockets with names like Titan and Thor that were ready to launch at a moment’s notice. He worked long hours on the base but when he was home he found time to be a dad to six children. He took me on camping trips through the Y-Indian Guides and he helped me to build backyard forts.  He had a mid-western charm and could make instant friends with anyone who wanted to hear his stories. 

He taught me how to work on cars and build anything I could imagine.  He was an inspiration to me in many ways, but if you ever wonder why I write about science fiction, the answer is definitely because my dad was a rocket mechanic and what little boy couldn’t help but to be impressed with that.

Delbert Perry Wells passed away on Sunday, and this little boy will miss him.



1. Martin L. Shoemaker - April 16, 2012

I am there with you, Tom. It sounds like your dad and mine would’ve gotten along well. Dad knew your dad, I’m sure, or knew someone who knew him. I never once went anywhere with Dad that he didn’t instantly find a connection to everyone there. And he too could build practically anything from wood and metal and persistence.

Treasure the memories, and hug your family. I wish I had met the Rocket Mechanic.

Tom Wells - April 16, 2012

Thanks Martin.

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