Forest Parkers were “over the moon” to hear that the son of the local torpedo factory supervisor, Andrew Cernan, was selected into the NASA program in 1963.
Located on Roosevelt Rd. in what is known today as the Forest Park Plaza, was the torpedo factory, or more formally, the Naval Ordnance Station. The station employed up to 6,500 workers and produced 19,000 torpedoes until production ended in 1945 and was instrumental in building torpedoes for the Navy during WWII.
Andrew Cernan, father of Eugene “Gene” Cernan, was a supervisor at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Plant. When his son, Gene Cernan, was one of fourteen people selected to be a NASA astronaut, all of Proviso was inspired as noted by the front page of Forest Park Review October 24, 1963.
The Cernan family lived in neighboring Bellwood on the 900 block of Marshall Avenue. Their son, Gene, was a local boy scout who enjoyed fishing, horses, sports and hunting. Gene graduated from Proviso High School (now known as Proviso East) in 1952. He then attended Purdue University, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1956 and entered the Navy that same year.
In the 1960’s Proviso took great pride in following the race to the moon and their native son as he traveled to space. In 1972 he was the Commander of Apollo 17. He is still the last person to walk on the moon.
Gene Cernan, shared this, as he left the surface of the Moon:
“Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
Gene’s affection for Bellwood can be found in his autobiography, “Last Man on the Moon,” where he mentions that his small home in Bellwood provided excellent training for the cramped quarters of a lunar module.