News Letter


To My Facebook Family And Friends, I have waited for over a week to make this post because I was overwhelmed by the report I received when I returned from vacationing that my good Friend and Brother, George Gassaway, had died. I have read several posts from some of you who have already expressed your heartfelt sympathy and sadness at George’s passing and your fond thoughts and wonderful memories of him. Well, now it’s my time to speak on behalf of my Friend and Brother George. I met George 20 years ago when he joined and became a club member of the Birmingham Rocket Boys (BRB), here in Birmingham, Alabama. As Founder and President of BRB, I had the opportunity to work with George for several years until his mother passed away, and he moved to Minnesota. I am making this post as a “Special Tribute” to George from me as his special friend and from the Birmingham Rocket Boys (BRB #665) where he worked and served faithfully for several years. I found George to be a soft spoken, kind, and gentle giant, who loved his mother dearly, and who had an overwhelming passion for model rocketry. I was blessed to see my friend George for the last time 6 months ago in January when he came from Minnesota to visit and stayed with me and my wife Carol for a week at our home. Since he moved to Minnesota over 10 years ago, he has visited us on several other occasions on business and pleasure, and he knew he was always welcome in our home. On this particular visit in January, he asked if he could stay with us long enough to empty out his storage unit which was full of all of his prize winning rockets, trophies, medals, plaques, ribbons, rocket parts, tools, books and years of memorabilia. George had rented a uhaul in Minnesota and towed it with his Subaru Outback to my house and asked me to help him empty his storage unit. Well, we spent the next 3 days sorting out the things he wanted to load in the uhaul to carry back with him. As you can see in the pictures I’ve posted, he had a storage unit full of stuff, but we finally succeeded in getting it all loaded. George had enough time leftover to stay for our monthly 3rd Saturday club rocket launch which he attended. It was great to have George to join us and it was the first time he had been with his BRB club members since he moved to Minnesota. When the word got out that George was coming, several of our club members, who had left and moved to other parts of Alabama, made a special trip to Birmingham to visit him. As most of you know, George was a master rocket builder, flyer, and Instructor. He was also a national and world champion rocket competitor with lots of first place trophies, medals, plaques, ribbons and certificates to prove it. His picture has been on the cover of the NAR’S “Sports Rocketry Magazine” on several occasions coupled with a feature story written about one of his great rocket builds. The biggest recognition George received for his expert rocket modeling came when he was featured in G.Harry Stine’s “Handbook of Model Rocketry.” George can be seen in the scale model section on page 248 posing with his magnificent scale model of a fully functional Space Shuttle with its rocket boosters attached. At this 14th World Space modeling Championship George won first place by construction and flight of his Space Shuttle scale model. The flight consisted of the two SRB engines separation during boost via an R/C signal, then the liquid booster engine also separated via an R/C signal. Finally George flew the Shuttle in for a safe landing via radio control which duplicated the real Shuttle’s flight in miniature. The reporter wrote that the flight was magnificent. This one rocket alone was enough to get George’s name recorded in model rocketry history but there’s so much more that can be added. George was a master flying R /C rocket gliders and won many awards flying them, but there was another magnificent rocket he built which he called his “Sun Guidance” rocket. This was an experimental rocket that acted like a guided missile. I would watch George put the rocket on the pad and aim it downrange away from the sun. After he launched the rocket downrange the rocket would adjust its course and turn around and head directly towards the sun. George wired the rocket with the proper instrumentation it needed to find the sun and to adjust its course toward it. I have never seen any other model rocket do that. It was amazing. I have attached a picture of George’s “Sun Guidance” rocket and his “scale model “Space Shuttle.” These two rockets alone are just a small sample of George’s rocketry genius and I would love to see his Space Shuttle displayed in the “Smithsonian Institute” or the “Model Rocketry Hall of Fame” if there is such a place. The last rocket I saw George fly was that day at our club rocket launch on January 21st. He flew his scratch built 1/16 scale R/C “Lunar Lander Quad Copter” The construction was awesome and George’s R/C flights were dazzling. Everyone had their cameras out taking pictures of George flying his Lunar Lander and that’s one of my many memories of George that I will never forget. The most important memory I have of George is the Sunday before he left my home to return to Minnesota. After knowing George for 20 years I had never asked him about his faith in God. So on that day, I sat down with him in our dining room and talked to him about his soul, and about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Well, after our long talk, George made a decision to accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and became a Christian believer that day. I gave him a Bible to take home with him and he left a happy man. Two months later in March George called me and told me he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that it was spreading. He also told me his prognosis was dire and that he didn’t have long to live. I was shocked and shaken by the news but I also understood why God had me to talk with him about his soul and to led him to Christ. For the next several weeks I became George’s spiritual advisor and when he called me I would read to him from the Bible to encourage him and lift up his spirit. I would pray for him to let him know that he wasn’t alone and that God was with him. He said he wasn’t giving up hope on life and that he wanted to move from Minnesota to Phoenix, Arizona to live with his good friend of many years, Ed LaCroix. He also told me that he planned to compete in the Word Space modeling Championship in Texas next month in July and would be flying his Space Shuttle in the contest. He was so excited when he told me that after he went public with his cancer diagnosis that the NAR contacted him and expressed their desire to honor him for his outstanding contribution and achievement in model rocketry. George, after having served as a NAR Board Member in the past, was blown away by the prospect that his name would go down in history with model rocketry pioneers such as, G. Harry Stine, Orville Carlisle, and Vern Estes. The icing on the cake came when George called me and told me that NASA Astronaut, and Space Shuttle Commander, Hoot Gibson had a recent 90 minute zoom call with him. I told George that he was being honored and recognized for his contribution to our wonderful hobby. I also told George that as his friend and as the Founder and President of the Birmingham Rocket Boys that I would write this Special Tribute in honor of him at his passing. George was serving as President of the Birmingham Rocket Boys in 2006 when we received our highest honor from retired NASA Engineer Homer Hickam Jr., and his wife Linda. Homer, who wrote the New York Times #1 Best Seller “Rocket Boys”, and who Hollywood made a movie “October Sky”, about his phenomenal life, made a special visit to one of our neighborhood outreach launches. After I personally met Homer in 2004 and informed him that I named our club “Rocket Boys” from his book, he took interest in the work we were doing with our youth in model rocketry. So in 2006 he decided to come down from Huntsville, Alabama to do a feature story about our club in the nationally syndicated “Parade Magazine.” The article Homer wrote was called “Where Spirits And Rockets Soar” and after it was printed and distributed nationally it brought national recognition to our club. I’ve attached several pictures of George in his Rocket Boys uniform posing with Homer and myself and also other BRB club members. George also used his master building skills to scratch build our clubs first launch control box and launch pads which were capable of launching 5 rockets simultaneously. I have also attached those pictures for your viewing. Every project that George engaged in was done to perfection. When I found out that George only had a high-school education I thought to myself that this guy, with a college degree, could be working for NASA. There will never be another George Gassaway and I will miss him dearly. As an Ordained Minister, I am preparing to honor George’s final request he asked me before he died. As soon as all of the proper arrangements have been made, I will, with the help of our BRB club members, hold a formal graveside memorial service for him here in Birmingham, Alabama, and scatter his ashes on his father’s and mother’s grave. With God’s help, I pledge to do this final act for my friend and brother. I will close this Tribute by saying I love you George, and now that you have moved to your final home, you can be at rest.

Oh! He has slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward he climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

He’s chased the shouting wind along, and flung

His eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue

He’s topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —

And, while with silent, lifting mind he’s trod

The high un-trespassed sanctity of space,

Put out his hand, and touched the face of God.Ron Witherspoon / Founder / President / BRB 665

Greetings BRB members and friends! We have had several inquiries this past week for BRB membership details. Please read below and respond accordingly.

ALL BRB Memberships will expire March 31, 2023.

Membership dues for 2023 should be paid on or before APRIL 1, 2023.

Memberships are as follows:

Under age 12, free.

Age 12-17, $12.

Age 18 and older, $18.

Family – $24. (mom, dad, kids)

You may pay Ron Witherspoon, Verna DeArman or Randy DeArman, in person at the next club launch OR make your check out to: Birmingham Rocket Boys and mail it to the club Treasurer:

Verna DeArman

65 Ridgewood Lane

Odenville, AL. 35120

Thank you for your kind attention!

Verna DeArman – BRB Treasurer