By Rich Pollack
HIGHLAND BEACH — The phone call came in the middle of that April 1970 night letting Jerry Goldmacher know that Apollo 13 was in trouble.
Mr. Goldmacher, the spacecraft manager at Grumman Aerospace for the lunar excursion module that would serve as a four-day lifeboat for three astronauts, and his team helped NASA figure out how to best utilize the LEM as a rescue vehicle after an explosion sidelined the space capsule.
His role in helping to bring the Apollo 13 crew home safely was one of many shining moments in the 40-year career of Mr. Goldmacher, a longtime Highland Beach resident who died Oct. 28. He was 93.
“He was a special person,” said John Ross, president of the Highland Beach Coastal Democratic Club, a friend of Mr. Goldmacher who met him through the organization. “He was a very humble man.”
Throughout his career at Grumman, which ended with his retirement as vice president of operations for the aerospace division in 1990, Mr. Goldmacher also served as lunar module spacecraft manager for Apollos 15, 16 and 17.
“He was a wonderful man who had wonderful relationships with others and was perfect for his role at Grumman,” said his daughter, Helen Sullivan. “There were some NASA contracts where they asked specifically for him.”
Ross remembers that one of Mr. Goldmacher’s prize possessions was a small flag that had been to the moon, which guests could see as they entered the family’s Highland Beach apartment.
“Imagine being in the middle of saving Apollo 13,” Ross said. “Imagine the pressure.”
Mr. Goldmacher enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17 and fought in the Pacific during World War II. He was married to his wife, Ruth, for 70 years and was a loyal family man.
“He was a very smart, kind man and very devoted to my mother,” Sullivan said. “He was a wonderful role model for his children and his grandchildren.”
Although his work at Grumman was an important part of his life, Mr. Goldmacher was never fully defined by it. Early on he took up motorcycle riding, sailing and playing guitar and was an avid reader whose favorite book was Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.
An engineer and early feminist, Mr. Goldmacher was known to be meticulous in just about everything he did.
“My father was incredibly patient, he was very talented and very exacting,” Sullivan said. “He was quite deep — but never somber. In fact, he had an incredibly sunny, optimistic outlook on life, loved a good joke and was good at telling them.”
He also loved movies — Cool Hand Luke was among his favorites.
In addition to his wife and his daughter, Mr. Goldmacher is survived by his four grandchildren, Juliet, Olivia, Paige and Shane, son of Mr. Goldmacher’s only son, Paul, who died in 1986.
Mr. Goldmacher’s ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery next year.