Anthony Betz, lunar module engineer, dies
Anthony John Betz of Smithtown, who died Wednesday at 79, was one of the engineers who "sent a man to the moon using a slide rule," his son said.
Betz worked on the fuel system of the lunar module as an aeronautic hydraulics engineer at Grumman Corp., but was privately skeptical about the feasibility of a moon landing, Edward Betz said.
"When they first approached my dad, he thought it was impossible, but he said, 'OK, if that's what you want us to do, we'll get it done,' " Edward Betz recalled.
After the triumphant 1969 landing, he remembers his father marveling, "Wow, we actually did it."
But as much as that achievement was remarkable, there was more that made him special, Edward Betz said.
Three years ago, a medical disorder caused Anthony Betz to lose one of his legs. When walking around his neighborhood on a prosthetic leg became too difficult, he began wheeling around on a scooter and waving to neighbors.
He and his wife, Josephine O'Donnell Betz, kept taking their twice-yearly trips to Las Vegas. "Even as hard as that was on one leg, he still wanted to go," said Edward Betz, a Newsday freelance photographer from Ronkonkoma.
Anthony Betz enjoyed making others laugh, texting his granddaughter Lauren a joke every day. Even after he suffered a heart attack Wednesday, he cracked jokes with doctors, his son said.
Betz was born in New York City's Upper West Side. The family was forced to split during the Great Depression. Betz moved with his mother and brother to the family farm in Dublin, N.H., while his father remained in New York to manage a department store.
After serving four years in the Air Force, Betz attended Hofstra University and graduated from the Academy of Aeronautics. After joining Grumman, now Northrop Grumman, he worked on a number of projects, including the Gulf Stream aircraft and the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, a precursor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
He also worked at the Fairchild Republic Corp. and Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked on the Isabel Project, a super collider.
Besides his wife and son, Betz is survived by two other sons, Joseph of Stony Brook, and Michael of Texas; a daughter, Patricia Betz Stockli of Rensselaer; and seven grandchildren.
Visitation is today from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Fives Funeral Home, 31 Landing Ave., Smithtown. A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Saint Philip & James Church in St. James. Internment will follow at Calverton National Cemetery.