By Janee Law
Herbert Charles “Charlie” Hedges, of Cold Spring Harbor, who helped the United States set foot on the moon in 1969 with his role in the Lunar Excursion Module program, was known to be a gentleman, a family man, a great father, a mentor and a kind-hearted, patient and humorous human being.
Hedges died June 15 in his Leesburg, Virginia home. He was 93.
Barbara Canney, one of his five children, said she remembers the time she spent with her father and siblings as they skated on St. Johns Lake in Cold Spring Harbor, where her father would lift his children up and fly them around like they were “angels.”
Canney said her father taught his family to respect the outdoors. Canney attributes his love for nature to the environment he was surrounded by as a kid, growing up on a farm.
Hedges also taught his family to respect others, to embrace the importance of family, practice patience and to always remember to laugh.
His sense of humor kept up until his final days, Canney said. One of the last things he said was, “Well, I guess it’s time to wrap it up.”
Hedges story began, however, in Hardin, Montana, on May 2, 1923 when he was born to Herbert William and Margaret MacArthur. The couple had come to America from England and Scotland to be homesteaders, raising cattle, chickens, turkeys and growing wheat.
In 1929, Hedges, his parents and his two siblings moved to Rocky Point Estate in Laurel Hollow. Hedges spent many of summer days exploring the waters, shores and hills of Cold Spring Harbor. The winters consisted of playing hockey with his friends on St. John’s Lake. He also spent time as an altar boy at St. John’s Church.
Hedges attended West Side School in Cold Spring Harbor. At the time, it was a little red schoolhouse. Today, it’s a private home.
He would also meet his future wife, the late Maria Holm, in Laurel Hollow. The two met when Holm was sweeping the stoop of her home and Hedges came by, passing out campaign flyers for Wendell Willkie.
By 1943, the couple married and had five children. They were happily married for 59 years; Holm died in 2002.
Moving away from Laurel Hollow, Hedges joined the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, serving from 1943-1945. His duties took him across the East Coast, training troops in ground camouflage, sabotage and the deployment of Bailey Bridges.
When the war concluded, Hedges finished his education by earning a master’s degree in engineering from Hofstra University. He soon began a 45-year career as an aeronautical engineer for Grumman Aircraft.
His proudest technological accomplishment came when he was named the manager of production engineering for the entire Lunar Excursion Module program. When designing spacecraft, his responsibility was to make sure that all the parts worked and worked well together before shipping them to subcontractors.
Hedges worked on the program from 1962-1972. From 1969-1972, six manned craft successfully landed on the moon, the first of which touched down on July 20, 1969. The seventh craft played a significant role in the rescue of the Apollo 13 crew.
Hedges was eventually honored for his outstanding contributions to the program with an Apollo Achievement Award issued by NASA. He retired from Grumman in 1990.
“He was a very humble man who did a lot for our country,” Canney said. “We’re very proud of him for that.”
Hedges is survived by children Kenneth, Susanne Kennedy, Barbara Canney, Donna Pica and Craig; 11 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. He was also predeceased by siblings Kenneth James and Emily Brader.
Hedges will be interred at St. John’s Cemetery in Laurel Hollow at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 16. A memorial service is slated for 12 noon at St. John’s Church in Cold Spring Harbor. A reception for friends and family will follow immediately after the service at the Huntington Country Club.