Bob Mitchell: A local connection to NASA

Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

The new director of the NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has strong ties to Cassville. Janet Kavandi, who had served as deputy director for the past year, was recently named director. As a member of the United States astronaut crew, she was included in space missions. She is a daughter of the late Bill and Ruth Sellers of Cassville.

Her father -- following World War II, during which he was a prisoner of war after the aircraft in which he was an air crewman was shot down over Germany -- became an early Barry County Sanitarian. Her mother, the former Ruth Garner, was a longtime deputy Barry County clerk.

Mr. and Mrs. Sellers, along with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Land of Wheaton, were on a flying trip to a rodeo in Oklahoma when the aircraft piloted by Sellers was struck from below by another aircraft piloted by a friend on the trip from Shell Knob. Both couples were killed instantly.

Bill Sellers was as liked as any Sanitarian known to Barry County. He was an ardent float fisherman, and it was a real pleasure to go on fishing trips with him. In addition to his love for flying, his float boat was equipped with custom carriers in the bottom that carried anything needed for preparing or consuming a meal. His favorite menu on an overnight trip, at the first gravel bar reached before dark, was charcoaled steaks and strawberry shortcake.

During his short interment in a German POW camp, he became acquainted with a pilot named Cass Haugh, who later became president of Daisy Air Rifle Co. of Rogers, Ark. There were a number of involvements involving Daisy that Bill and I attended.

My benefactor

In addition to being a good and cooperative source of news from the courthouse, Ruth was a classmate of mine with the class of 1947 and was a very good friend. She and Bill made their home in the Washburn Prairie area, at the property now owned by Nancy England. At the acreage, Bill laid out a landing strip and kept his airplane at the barn.

Ruth was a special friend in one way, probably getting me through the typing class of instructor Hazel McNally. One of her class requirements was a perfect exercise that permitted no erasures or strike-overs. Most of the time during the duration of this class, and with my playing ball all the time, there was a finger in a splint or bandage. This meant that most of the time one of those exercises would be going well until the very end, when a mistake would appear.

To overcome this problem, there were some girls, good typists, who would fill in the required hand-ins for boys at the Underwood or Royal. Ruth was about as proficient at this as anyone in the class.

Kavandi's later years

After her parents were killed, Kavandi and her sister moved to Carthage to live with her aunt, Mrs. Edward England, and her husband. Kavandi was born in Springfield during the time the Cassville hospital was in a period of closing and opening only to close again.

She graduated from Carthage schools before earning a bachelor's degree at Missouri Southern, a master's at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and her doctorate at the University of Washington

Column served purpose

Just recently came the discovery of what power this column might have. A long-lost Navy friend of mine came back in contact when I had to admit that I had lost his phone number, which is exactly what had happened.

Well, he called recently, getting information on a contact through Cassville-Democrat.com. After reading a number of columns, he decided he would take the bull by the horns and call the number listed on the display, since I had not made contact.

This guy was my favorite photographer in the Navy, having been my choice to make a number of assignments together. When we returned to the west coast, he and his wife became our closest of friends. We visited them in the northwest at an island north of Spokane when he was teaching photojournalism at the University of Washington, and once in Idaho after he had retired as a chief photographer.

They visited us here in the Ozarks once before he lost his wife a few years later.

Moved to Hawaii

After losing his wife, he remained in Idaho and Washington for a few years with his children and families, but had recently relocated to Hawaii.

Right now, he claims to be of the best health of his life, swimming at least twice daily, either in a pool or the ocean. He claims the salt air is good for him, and thinks it might be a good idea for anyone so inclined to make the move west.

He claims he is going to keep track of future happenings in Cassville in the future through Cassville-Democrat.com.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.