Annie Glenn, the widow of astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn and a communication disorders advocate, died Tuesday at age 100.
Glenn died of COVID-19 complications at a nursing home near St. Paul, Minnesota, said Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.
At the time of John Glenn’s death in 2016, the two had been married 73 years. She had moved out of the apartment they shared in Columbus in recent years and gone to live with her daughter, Lyn, according to Wilson.
Annie Glenn was thrust into the spotlight in 1962, when her husband became the first American to orbit Earth. She shied away from the media attention because of a severe stutter.
Later, she underwent an intensive program at the Communications Research Institute at Hollins College, now Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia, that gave her the skills to control her stutter and to speak in public.
By the time 77-year-old John Glenn returned to space in 1998 aboard space shuttle Discovery, Annie showed she had become comfortable in her public role when she acknowledged that she had reservations about the retired senator’s second flight.
“John had announced one year before that he was going to retire as a senator, so I was looking forward to having him as my own because I had given him to our government for 55 years,” she told a NASA interviewer.
Her career in advocacy for those with communication disorders included service on the advisory boards of numerous child abuse and speech and hearing organizations. The Annie Glenn Award was created to honor individuals who overcome a communication disorder.
Defense Secretary William Cohen honored Annie Glenn with the Department of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 1998. He called her “a hero in her own right” and praised her for being “a strong voice for children, speech and communications, and the disabled.”
In 2009, Glenn received an honorary doctorate of public service from Ohio State, where she served as an adjunct professor of speech pathology in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. The department bestows an Annie Glenn Leadership Award annually.
Glenn was born Anna Margaret Castor on Feb. 17, 1920, in Columbus. She met her husband while they were children growing up in New Concord. She was offered an organ scholarship to The Julliard School, but World War II began and John proposed — so she decided to stay with him, according to a biography on the Glenn College’s website. The high school sweethearts attended Muskingum College and were married in 1943. They had two children, David and Lyn.
The Glenns served on the board of trustees of the college, now Muskingum University, and Annie Glenn was named a distinguished alumni fellow in speech communications at the school.
A virtual memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 6, 2020, at 11 a.m EDT. The service will be officiated by the Rev. Amy Miracle, pastor for the Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus. The memorial will be virtual with no parishioners or guests in attendance due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
She is survived by her two children.