Community gathers to celebrate the life and legacy of Katherine Johnson

Virginia News

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Hundreds gathered to commemorate the life and legacy of Katherine Johnson Saturday.

Johnson, 101, died on Monday, February 24, and was known to the community as a barrier-breaking, trailblazer who paved the way for women in STEM across the nation.

Johnson, a pioneering Hampton Roads and American icon who helped American astronauts land on the moon, has died at age 101.

Johnson was often overlooked until the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures,” which highlighted the work and challenges that she, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Dr. Christine Darden faced while working at NASA Langley in Hampton. Actress Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in the movie.

Johnson said her greatest achievement came in 1969, when she calculated the trajectory for Apollo 11, helping American astronauts land on the moon.

In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, and was chosen in November to receive to the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor presented by Congress.

Saturday’s viewing at the Hampton University Convocation Center began at 9 a.m followed by a Celebration of Life service at 11 a.m.

Among those who spoke at the ceremony were NASA director Clayton Turner and a few of her friends who are NASA astronauts.

Everyday she was a shining light of love.

NASA director Clayton Turner

“ I realize no words need to be prepared because Dr. Johnson has written them on my heart,” said NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle.

“Her calculations, her passion, her dedication to make sure the numbers were right,” added NASA astronaut Leland Melvin.

Also paying her regards, the first African American woman in outer space, Dr. Mae Jemison.

“I had to be here,” Jemison stated.

Though Johnson wore many hats, those who knew her best spoke of her beautiful heart during the ceremony. 

“More than anything she was the most wonderful grandmother that a girl could ask for and I know I am forever blessed,” said Johnson’s granddaughter, Michele Sanders.

“Mom, you’re taking your final trip safe landing we love you,” cried Johnson’s daughter, Katherine Moore in her closing remarks.

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