The anticipated letter of confirmation arrived amid great excitement at the Madison home of Dr. Robert Parker, an assistant professor of astronomy at the nearby University of Wisconsin (UW). The letter, date-stamped 2 August 1967, was from
the office of Deke Slayton, NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations. The style was quite formal, but it was written verification of the news Parker had received in a call from Alan Shepard just two weeks earlier, on 21 July. In part, it read:
''I am happy to confirm your selection into the Scientist/Astronaut Training Program of the Manned Spacecraft Center. Because of the heavy demand for flight training in the Air Force, you will not be attending flight school until next March. Consequently, we intend to start your training with the ground-based aspects of the program here at the Manned Spacecraft Center. Your first move, therefore, will be a permanent one to Houston. We ask that you report for duty on or before September 18. Representatives of our Personnel Division will be in contact with you to arrange details and a specific reporting date which will be convenient. Congratulations, again, on your selection and we certainly are pleased to have you in the >>20
Robert Allan Ridley Parker was born in New York City on 14 December 1936, the son of Allan Elwood and Alice (Heywood) Parker, and twin brother to Peter. When the twins were aged five, the family moved to historic Shrewsbury, a suburb of Worcester, Massachusetts. Shrewsbury had earlier been home to both of his parents, and before that to his paternal grandparents, Vernie (nee Elwood) and Samuel Ridley Parker.
Parker's grandfather, who preferred to be called Ridley, was born in March 1868 to Sarah (nee Ridley) and John Parker, and was brought up in the small village of Waterbury in the northwest corner of Washington County, Vermont. Having attended the state's prestigious St. Johnsbury Academy, Ridley Parker became a high school teacher, while continuing his studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Following his graduation he became a librarian and in 1901, he moved to New York City with his wife Vernie in order to take up a position in the magnificent Astor Library. They would later return to Massachusetts and settle in Shrewsbury, located some thirty-four miles west of Boston. It was a peaceful town, and in those pre-Depression days, Shrewsbury enjoyed a thriving agricultural economy based on a profusion of apple orchards.
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