John Glenn Was a Hero to US, but His Hero Was His Wife

Annie Glenn suffered for years with stuttering disability until she overcame it
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2016 11:46 AM CST
The Woman Behind the Astronaut: John Glenn's 'Hero' Wife
In this May 14, 2015, file photo, former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn and his wife, Annie Glenn, answer questions during an interview with the AP in Columbus, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Paul Vernon, File)

American lost a space pioneer this week with the death of ex-astronaut and Sen. John Glenn at age 95, but Annie Glenn, John's wife, lost a husband of 73 years. The Washington Post tells the story of what many saw as an "odd coupling": While John was gregarious and talkative, Annie didn't speak much and avoided public appearances, mainly due to a serious stutter that John once wrote about as a "tremendously difficult and frustrating experience," even when she just tried to do everyday things like hailing a taxi. "As the wife of a famous astronaut, I had to deal with being constantly in the public eye," Annie told the Post in a 1984 interview, which noted people often thought she was deaf or retarded. "And if this wasn't hard enough, I had to do it all with a severe handicap." But John always went to bat for her, performing routine tasks in her stead, as well as putting his foot down when required.

When a 1962 launch was postponed due to bad weather, then-VP Lyndon Johnson showed up with reporters at the Glenns' home for an interview with Annie; she panicked and called John, stuttering out what was happening. "They are not coming in and I will back you up all the way and you tell them that!" he said. Then, in 1973, Annie found an intense three-week treatment program for stutterers; she signed up and called John when she finished. "When I called John, he cried," she said. Annie went on to give speeches during Glenn's Senate runs and became a vocal disability advocate, always heading "straight for those in wheelchairs," per the Post. "America is made up of a whole nation of heroes who face problems that are very difficult, and their courage remains largely unsung," John wrote. "In my book, Annie is one of those heroes." (More on their love story in the Zanesville Times Recorder.)

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