Jeffrey Lyttle shares a family anecdote about John Glenn

As family anecdotes go, ours is pretty great: John Glenn was our grandmother's paperboy.

About 80 years ago, Mildred Lemmon Gibson, my grandmother, and her parents Novie and Will Lemmon, had their daily copy of the Columbus Citizen delivered by a New Concord neighbor kid who would make history-over and over again. And, it has been my pleasure to share this piece of family history-over and over again.

One of the people I had the joy of sharing it with was Mr. Glenn himself. The conversation went something like this:

"You were my grandmother's paperboy back in New Concord. We consider it an important part of our family lore."

"Really? What was your grandmother's name?"

"Mildred Lemmon."

"Oh sure! I remember the Lemmons. They lived right on High Street. Annie, come over here. You need to hear this story. You remember the Lemmons, right?"

That's really how it went. John Glenn had flown 149 combat missions in two wars, helped to usher in the age of supersonic jet aviation, visited to space and returned home, served four terms in the U.S. Senate, hobnobbed with Kennedys, and admitted being jealous of only one person, Neil Armstrong, "because he got to walk on the moon." And, he remembered the Lemmons of New Concord, whose two-story home sat just outside the entrance to Muskingum College. Needless to say, it was a moment for me that spoke volumes about the man.

John Glenn and my father were both born in Cambridge. His kindness, humility and approachability reminded me of my father. He used similar phrases, and had the distinctive non-accent of a person from eastern Ohio. It made me feel at home in his presence.

He credited Annie with keeping him humble. He told my wife and me a story once. I got the sense he had told it many times. I was charmed nevertheless. He was driving Annie home from a parade held in his honor. Thinking out loud, he said, "You know, there really aren't that many true American heroes." To which she quickly replied, "You're right. And, there's one fewer than you think!"

Far be it for me to disagree with Mrs. Glenn. But, I think she got that one wrong.

Jeffrey Lyttle is a managing director at J.P Morgan Chase. As a freelancer for Columbus Monthly, he wrote our August 1998 cover story on John Glenn.

(Photo: Dispatch Archives)