KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — July 16 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo11 launch. A Knoxville woman got to see the launch first-hand because of her late husband's tireless work.

Kathryn Tidwell remembers the historic Apollo 11 launch like it was yesterday.

"We watched it in VIP stands," Tidwell admitted.

Her husband Ken played a key role in making that history.

"But I said we were space people," Tidwell laughed. "We were all over the United States."

Ken worked for Boeing and was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as a test engineer in the firing room.

"He just loved his work," Tidwell said. "Sometimes I wouldn't see him for two or three days because he actually slept on top of a desk out there because they were so busy."

Apollo suitcase

Kathryn played mom and dad while Ken spent time making sure the astronauts made it to the moon. She said she was very proud of him for all he did.

Two days before the launch in '69, Ken was honored with NASA's Man Flight Awareness award for Boeing.

"And Von Braun was there," Kathryn beamed. "And so when I went up to shake hands with him, he wouldn't turn loose of my hand"

Ken's name will forever be part of the landing.

"His name is in a time capsule on the moon, along with all these other guys that worked that same thing," Kathryn pointed out in the paper program from the ceremony.

Ken Tidwell name

When the time came for the launch, Ken and Kathryn were beside themselves.

"His head was always thinking is it gonna go all the way up or is something gonna happen to it," Kathryn giggled.

And when it was a success, Ken screamed.

"We did it! We made it," Kathryn hollered. "Cause you know you never knew when they were really going to go all the way up."

Now she remembers that day through memorabilia, like his old hard hat from the work area.

Boeing Hard Hat

Her husband, who passed of cancer in 2013, helped change the world.

"I thought he was a pretty special person," Kathryn admitted.

Kathryn said she will celebrate the anniversary Tuesday with a glass of wine and dinner.


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