Keep In Touch, or “KIT,” is what this elite group of women call themselves. They are the “Original” Astronaut Wives. These women and families had “celestial courage” during the space race, and now they have vowed to keep in touch years after the space race slowed down and families went different directions.

This year’s “The Great Escape” was the 11th reunion held since 1991, and it was hosted in Kerrville from April 25-28 at Bigwood Springs Ranch, now owned by Tracy and Marion Woolie, the daughter and son-in-law of the late Astronaut Gene Cernan.

The KIT ladies and their daughters gathered from all parts of the country to catch up on each other’s lives and reminisce about the many great times they have spent together. It was especially meaningful to have this reunion at Gene’s ranch. His love of the Hill Country, combined with his fondness of this group of women, created the perfect backdrop for this event.

The group was treated to a true Hill Country welcome. They enjoyed a private tour of the Schreiner Mansion, shopping downtown, lunch at Francisco’s and a wine-and-olive oil tasting at the newly opened Turtle Creek Olives and Vines.

On Friday, they celebrated with a dinner at 1011 Bistro, gazing at a perfect Hill Country sunset over the Guadalupe River. Saturday, the day included a visit to the home of Ardis Shanks, an artist who had painted some of the astronaut families years ago.

Of course, no visit to the Kerrville area is complete without a shopping trip to James Avery and a stroll down main street in Fredericksburg. The group enjoyed Saturday evening cocktails at the Turtle Creek Olive Grove, followed by dinner at Bigwood Springs Ranch.

A special guest included Kali Armstrong, granddaughter of Janet and Neil Armstrong. She flew in from Montana to represent one of the founding members of the group, Janet, who passed away last June.

Kali, a musician and songwriter, treated us to a special presentation by the campfire of her new song, “Flight of Fancy,” which she and her father, Mark Armstrong, will perform at Carnage Hall on July 16.

As the ladies all celebrated under the Hill Country stars, they felt the presence of the husbands, fathers and friends who they have lost over the years. These reunions are always a heartfelt time, as everyone is getting older, but they have vowed to keep them going; and now the daughters are hooked as well. Plans for the next event are already in the works.

Many thanks to the Kerrville area businesses for such a warm welcome to this wonderful group of women. Their husbands went into space and to the moon, but these women were the ones that supported them and kept the families and households together to make it possible for these men to succeed.

They are the “Real heroes of the Space Race.”

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