‘I can never forget my anniversary.’ Couple shares wedding date with moon landing

Sam and Linda Lucido were married on July 20, 1969 in Oakland in a simple, Sunday afternoon ceremony.

It was a church wedding and other than the two ministers on hand, it was a fairly conventional ordeal. There was cake and champagne, as was fitting of the times.

And yet, miles above the earth, events were unfolding that would tie the couple’s wedding day to one of the most significant events in U.S. history.

At 1:17 p.m., the Apollo 11 space mission landed on the moon. Just over six hours later, at 7:56 Pacific time, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on its surface.

It was “a giant leap for mankind,” to quote Armstrong.

“I can never forget my anniversary,” Sam Lucido said on the eve of his 50th. “It’s one of the benefits.”

The couple is celebrating on Saturday at a party with friends and family at their north Fresno home.

Moon mementos

The Apollo space mission has taken extra significance in the Lucidos’ lives and there are reminders throughout their house.

There is a model of the lunar module (still in its box) and a framed photograph from the moon walk. They have a collection of local newspapers with coverage of it and a set of commemorative stamps the post office released for the 25th anniversary.

Among moon mementos Sam and Linda Lucido keep in their north Fresno home is a framed photograph of the first moon walk. The Lucidos were married July 20, 1969, hours before Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

This year, Sam bought a limited-edition gold coin issued by the U.S. Mint. The front features a fish-eye image of Armstrong standing between the landing module and the flag. On the back is rendered the famous first footprint.

In the Lucido garden, there’s an “Apollo” rose plant. It’s been with the couple through three moves and it continues to thrive.

In hindsight, the collision of events seems almost predestined. It certainly wasn’t planned.

They chose the date because the church was available.

Sam and Linda Lucido pose for a photo while dancing at their wedding on July 20, 1969 in Oakland. Special to The Bee

Also, it was three years to the day that they met.

Linda knew she wanted to marry Sam after the first 10 days, even if it took Sam another two years to pop the question. It wasn’t the down-on one-knee proposal, either.

They were in a car, traveling through Lodi.

They were eating cherries, Sam recalls, and he simply asked Linda what she thought about getting married.

In the days leading up to the wedding, there was certainly a sense of anticipation about the moon landing. The Apollo trip had begun July 16, when then astronauts launched from Kennedy Space Center.

“The excitement was in the air. We had men going to the moon,” Linda says.

‘Everyone was praying’

The conversation at the wedding reflected that excitement. The old game of catch-up with family and friends was replaced by an overwhelming sense of wonder at what America was about to accomplish.

There was also some sense of worry, Linda says, though to this day, she has never really given thought to how their lives would be different had the astronauts not been successful.

“Everyone was praying, all over the world, that they would be coming home safely,” she says.

In the end, the guests all left the reception and ended up at Linda’s parent’s house gathered around the television. They were not alone.

A story in The Fresno Bee, on July 21, 1969 recalled deserted streets for much of the day.

“There were more fresh footprints on the moon than on the surface of a local playground,” the story reads.

Another story estimated the number of viewers around the world at 500 million.

The couple wasn’t immune to the unfolding drama, either. As they tell it, the honeymoon started with husband carrying his wife over the threshold and dropping her on the bed – then, heading directly to turn on the TV.

They laugh at how it all sounds now, but “it was a pretty hefty day for everybody,” Sam says.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

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Joshua Tehee covers breaking news for The Fresno Bee, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day” and read more of his work here.