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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2012

Private service planned Friday for Armstrong


CINCINNATI -- A private service is planned in Cincinnati on Friday for astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and President Obama has ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half staff.

The Ohio native died Saturday in Cincinnati at age 82. No other information was released immediately about the service.

Mr. Obama on Monday issued a proclamation calling for U.S. flags to be lowered the day of Mr. Armstrong's burial, including at the White House, military posts and ships, U.S. embassies, and other public buildings "as a mark of respect for the memory of Neil Armstrong."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday had Ohio flags on all public buildings and grounds flown at half staff through Friday.

Preliminary discussions have been held about a national memorial service for Armstrong, who often shunned publicity in the decades after his historic mission, but a family spokesman said there were no details yet.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who is from Ohio and has called Mr. Armstrong "a good friend and adviser," will eulogize him at Friday's service.

Mr. Portman is in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, where he is scheduled to speak Wednesday night. Spokesman Caitlin Dunn said his office is working on travel arrangements to get him back to Cincinnati in time for the service.

Mr. Portman called Mr. Armstrong humble and gracious, and on Monday he recounted for Ohioans at the convention an anecdote demonstrating Mr. Armstrong's compassion for veterans and his desire to keep a low profile: Several years ago, the former astronaut accepted Mr. Portman's request to help dedicate a veterans memorial in Mason, Ohio, but asked that his participation not be announced in advance. The crowd quickly rose in standing ovation when Mr. Armstrong was introduced, Mr. Portman recalled.

The Museum of Natural History & Science of the Cincinnati Museum Center has an exhibit that includes a moon rock and replicas of Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit and tools used on the moon. It is offering free admission through Labor Day to honor Mr. Armstrong, and more than 2,000 people visited Sunday.

Mr. Armstrong, who commanded the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, was born in Wapakoneta, in west-central Ohio. He is celebrated there at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, which is planning a memorial tribute Wednesday night.

The tribute is called "Wink at the Moon." The statement Mr. Armstrong's family released upon his death requested that the public honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, adding "and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

The Armstrong family released another statement Monday evening saying that "the outpouring of condolences and kind wishes from around the world overwhelms us, and we appreciate it more than words can express."

The statement suggested that instead of flowers, memorial contributions could be made to the Neil Armstrong New Frontiers Initiative at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center or to the Neil Armstrong Scholarship Fund at the Telluride Foundation in Telluride, Colo.

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