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Scobee Family To Spend Challenger Anniversary Watching His Son Soar

January 27, 1996

HOUSTON (AP) _ Challenger Commander Dick Scobee’s family will not spend Sunday _ the 10th anniversary of the space shuttle disaster _ at a memorial service.

They’re going to the Super Bowl.

``My dad really hated the thought of his family weeping over his grave,″ said the astronaut’s daughter, Kathie Scobee Fulgham. ``So we are going to do what Dick Scobee would have done.″

Scobee’s 31-year-old son, Rich, will be the lead pilot for the Air Force flyover of fighter planes at Sunday’s football game in Tempe, Ariz.

``I think that’s a really fine tribute to him. This idea of my brother flying is really special to my family,″ said Ms. Fulgham, 34.

She’ll attend the championship game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers with her husband, mother and stepfather.

Ms. Fulgham sat in her north Houston office Friday and reflected on how life has changed for her and her family since Francis ``Dick″ Scobee, a 46-year-old former Air Force and combat pilot, took off in Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

With three posters relating to the space program hanging on a wall behind her desk, Ms. Fulgham described how she, her 11-month-old son Justin, her mom and her brother went to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to watch Scobee soar into space.

``It was Daddy’s second flight, so we knew what to expect,″ she said, pushing back her wavy, blond hair. ``The way the ground rumbles, the way the air crackles _ all of that was happening. And then these strange little columns of smoke started coming out. And we knew it wasn’t right, but we didn’t know how serious it was.″

Scobee and the six other crew members were killed in the explosion.

The hounding of their relatives by the news media that followed altered Ms. Fulgham’s career choice. She was 24 and had studied to become a reporter.

``After the accident, I decided not to become a journalist because I could never ask the hard questions,″ she said.

Instead, she went into public relations and now works for the North Harris Montgomery College District.

Her mother, June Scobee Rodgers, became a founder of the Challenger learning centers, of which there are now 25 across the country. She married a retired Army lieutenant in 1989 and has written a book, ``Silver Linings,″ about her grief and her faith.

Scobee’s seven grandchildren, six of whom were born after he died, refer to him as ``Ampa,″ because that’s how Justin pronounced ``Grandpa″ as a baby. They occasionally ask questions, like, ``Did it hurt?″ and ``Did he know it was exploding?″

They are the only grandchildren of a Challenger astronaut, but they aren’t the only kids curious about the calamity. About 250,000 students and teachers explored the Challenger centers in 1995.

``I’ve always said I want him to be remembered for the way he lived, not for the way he died,″ Ms. Fulgham said. ``The Challenger centers help do that because they continue the education mission that the crew had started out on.

``That way, every child who comes to the Challenger center is fired up about math and science and technology and communication. That’s what my dad was all about.″

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