Columbia Pilot McCool Remembered at Naval Academy

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A month after space shuttle Columbia broke apart, pilot William McCool was remembered Saturday as a man of intelligence, vision and leadership who loved God, his family and long-distance running.

More than 400 people attended a memorial service in the chapel at the Naval Academy, where McCool graduated second in his 1983 class.

Fellow astronaut Steve Lindsay told mourners that McCool, 41, had a rare combination of leadership, great organizational skills and original ideas.

"Willie's legacy will never be forgotten by our generation or the next," he said.

"I will remember Willie for his humility, and that is almost unheard of in the aviation world," said Navy Cmdr. Craig Williams, McCool's roommate during their senior year at the Naval Academy.

Williams recalled that he had been living with McCool for most of a semester before he found out, to his great surprise, that his roommate was then No. 1 in the class of 1983.

"He was number one in our class until he roomed with me," Williams said in one of the lighter moments of the service.

He shared some of McCool's writings with the audience, including an e-mail he sent from space that spoke of his joy in the "overwhelming smorgasbord of new experiences."

McCool's widow, Lanni, and their three sons, ages 14, 19, and 22, sat near the front of the chapel along with his parents, sister and brother. Family members did not speak during the service.

Seven rifle bearers each fired off three quick rounds in succession. A team of six sailors then folded a large American flag, which was presented to McCool's widow.

Columbia broke apart Feb. 1 over Texas, killing the seven astronauts aboard.