Neil Armstrong: A dance remembered

Telin Ozier doesn’t remember why she did this, but she once approached Neil Armstrong’s wife with a simple request: Could she dance with her famous husband?

“She smiled and said sure,” Ozier recalled in a phone interview. Armstrong obliged. “He smiled and took my hand and took me out to the dance floor. I was just trembling,” Ozier said.

That was in 1975, six years after Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Ozier was at a banquet for The Society of Experimental Test Pilots, an organization co-founded by her father, the late experimental test pilot Joe Ozier, who died while testing the F104 Starfighter.

The night they danced to a big band, Armstrong was being honored by the organization. Ozier, who would soon graduate from BYU, was a 20-year-old scholarship recipient.

Armstrong’s death on Aug. 25 brought an outpouring of tributes from fans and admirers around the world, including Ozier, now 56, who shared her story in the comments to an obituary by The Washington Post. The comment, which became the most recommended by Post readers, included this anecdote:

“As we danced to a big band, I was shaking and he could feel it. He looked down and me and said, "Why are you shaking? I'm just a school teacher from Cincinnati!" I laughed and said, "Yep! One who walked on the moon!" A true American hero who was a living legend. I am so sorry he is gone.”

Ozier, who was inspired by her father to join the Air Force, spent years as a lawyer with the Judge Advocate General’s department, and retired from active duty in 2005. She now works as a civilian lawyer out of an Air Force base in Oklahoma, where she has lived since moving from D.C. in 2011.

When she learned of Armstrong’s death, Ozier was inspired to share her story, one that underscores the humility that Armstrong is remembered for by many.

“I was surprised at how [Armstrong's] death affected me,” Ozier said. “This is not a political thing. This was a living legend.”

Ozier said there's not much more to the story of that night. After the dance, Armstrong took her back to her seat, pulling out her chair for her to sit down.

Ozier wasn’t the only reader who paid tribute to Armstrong in online comments. Readers wrote of watching Armstrong’s descent onto the moon’s surface on black and white TVs. Others recalled getting his autograph.

Commenter “js2225” wrote that Armstrong spoke at the daycare center he attended as a child. “As far as I know, it wasn’t publicized. Just something he did for the kids who went there. He also signed autographs for every kid who wanted one (sadly, I lost mine).”

And a commenter dubbed “smiffy” wrote of a more recent brush with Armstrong.

“Through a personal connection, Neil Armstrong wrote an email to my daughter's Grade 5 class this year. It was special; now it is very special. He answered questions that the kids had sent. He gave a description of a lunar crater that you could only give if you'd been there. Left us feeling very humble.”

Ozier’s connections to Armstrong continue after his death.

Hearing of Diana Krall's recent performance of “Fly Me To The Moon,” which the jazz singer performed in honor of Armstrong, brought back another poignant memory for Ozier. 

“That was my father and my mother’s favorite song,” she said.

Bethonie Butler is a producer and a reporter on The Post’s engagement team. She oversees online comments and has also contributed to The Style Blog and She The People.
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