TAMPA BAY, Fla. – Skip Laisure’s dad wasn’t very strict with his three sons when they were growing up in Ohio. But when a space shuttle launched, Paul Laisure insisted that they come and sit in the living room to watch the lift-off on their Admiral TV.
“He was extremely proud of working at NASA,” Skip Laisure said. “It meant a lot to him what the country was doing in the space program.”
Paul Laisure, 88, worked as a research electrician from 1955 to the 1980s with the test installations division of what was then called the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland. He helped to build the facility’s zero-gravity research facility, he said.
As lead electrician, he helped wire the chamber that allowed engineers to test flight packages in a weightless environment, he said. And now he’s trying to get acknowledgement for NASA’s blue-collar workers — like him — at the Research Center’s Hall of Fame.
After the Hall of Fame opened in 2016, Skip Laisure submitted a letter suggesting that a plaque be awarded to his father or displayed at the facility. “They didn’t go for that,” he said.
So his father pivoted.
“His thought was, ‘You know what, it doesn’t need to be me. It could be all of us,’” Skip Laisure said. “He just wanted acknowledgment for all the little people.”
Paul Laisure, nicknamed “Pierre” at work for his French last name, loved his job. He ferried astronauts around the centre, played his harmonica at raucous work parties and helped send Americans into the other frontier, his son said.
“My mother would suggest he could make more money working as a contract electrician, but he said no,” he remembered. His father felt lucky to work at the research centre.
“I would have paid them to let me work there,” Paul Laisure said.
Two years ago, when Paul Laisure went back to visit what’s now called the John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, the fruits of his work were still there, his son said, adding, “All these years later, he recognized the stuff that he had installed.”
The Hall of Fame honours computer programmers, engineers and others who have contributed to NASA’S success, according its website. Inductees must be retired or resigned from the centre, nominated by a current employee and voted on by a panel of centre leaders, it says.
Anne Mills, the Research Center records manager and history officer, confirmed in an email that Laisure worked there as an electrician and that his son — also a NASA employee — nominated him for the Hall of Fame’s first class in 2015. But his father did not get enough votes to be inducted, she said.
The Hall of Fame is intended to honour individuals and well-defined teams, she wrote, adding “our technicians and labourers have been a vital part of our centre success from the very beginning.”
After Laisure retired in 1982, he moved to Seminole and picked up jobs as a handyman. He still carried the leather briefcase he took to work each day for NASA. But instead of tinkering with the zero-gravity drop tower, he installed cabinets and lighting, repaired flooring and walls.
He met his long-time girlfriend Fran Lewis at one of the Gulfport Casino’s ballroom dances. They waltzed and shimmied together for the next 28 years.
After she died in 2017, he found a new mission — working toward blue-collar recognition for his NASA colleagues.
Paul Laisure said he plans to visit the Research Center later this month and submit a new letter that nominates all blue-collar workers for the Hall of Fame.
“It was the mechanics and blue-collar working people who built what the engineers wanted,” Paul Laisure said. ”