Roger Lance Moffett was born into the arms of George and Alice Moffett on July 5,1939 in Kansas City, Kansas. The family, including his “Irish twin” brother David just 11 months his senior, moved north of the river in Kansas City after purchasing a five-acre lot on which to build their home. His father enlisted in the Marines when the boys were toddlers and left Alice and them living in the newly finished basement while he served overseas for two years. Their Uncle Roy provided fatherly and financial assistance in their father’s absence. When he returned from the war it was as though Roger and David were “meeting him for the first time” under the big clock at Union Station; a hero in uniform.
The brothers loved exploring their walnut forested property, building forts and playing sports with neighbor kids and risking “shooting their eyes out” with their Daisy Red Ryder BB guns. They fished and caught tadpoles with nets from the little dock on the pond their father dug. They walked through the woods to the local Armor theater for Frankenstein movies and terrorized each other in the dark on their way home.
As they grew older the boys began helping their dad with house-building tasks until their home was finally completed; around the time they were in high school. The boys earned their Eagle Scout ranking the same year at ages 14 and 15 with their dad’s encouragement as a scout leader for troop 141.
After years of trailing his brother, Roger began developing his own interests and laying the groundwork for his future. He was introverted and studious with a quest for knowledge. Understanding the importance of current events, he began a lifelong habit of reading the newspaper daily. He loved history and geography, and according to his mother, he had the atlas memorized front to back. He also had a natural inclination and love for mathematics.
His speed and agility was first perhaps triggered and/or recognized on a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park when an angry momma bear nipped at Roger’s jean pocket after he attempted to play with her cub . The family watched in horror as he ran for his life toward them in their Ford sedan before he slammed the door behind him to safety.
His fast-twitched muscles had him sprinting and jumping at the varsity level for the North Kansas City Hornets’ track and field team beginning his freshman year. His sophomore year he and his relay team earned the state record for the 4 X 100 relay. The NKC football coach personally approached Roger’s father to ask that he consider allowing Roger to join the football team the following season. Much to his mother’s chagrin, he became an A-team halfback for the 1957 undefeated North Kansas City High School football team. He was handpicked as west side halfback for the East-West Missouri Allstar game and led the west to victory against the Eastside’s Mel West.
Roger earned a football scholarship to Central Missouri State in Warrensburg, Missouri, where he played for three years while earning a degree in Physics. He then transferred to the University of Missouri upon his mother’s suggestion that he study engineering, thus abandoning his football career. He earned a degree in Mechanical engineering with an emphasis on thermodynamics. His response to later discovering that his mother had hidden from him an invitation from the Dallas Cowboys to try out for the team was an earnest “she did it because she loved me.” He remained a lifelong football fan, particularly for the University of Missouri Tigers and Kansas City Chiefs. He enjoyed three Chiefs Super Bowl wins in 1970, 2020 and 2023.
During the summer between his junior and senior year at MU, Roger applied for a work study program and was accepted to become a student engineer at the Aeromacchi Aircraft Factory in Varese, Italy. On his first day he was warmly welcomed by an Italian officemate named Vladimiro who absorbed Roger into his family, exposed him to Italian culture, helped him learn the language and remained a friend for life. After work they swam Lake Maggiore and on weekends Roger would scour the Italian roads on his ‘Moto’ scooter. Roger realized through this experience that he could work internationally and put his feet on the maps he was so fascinated by.
Before leaving on his trip to Italy, Roger had met a beautiful nursing student named Patricia Kowertz while their respective dorms were working together on the Student’s World Fair project. It was “opposites attract at first sight” when his roommate Clyde introduced them to each other, and they began dating. They wrote letters to each other while he was away, and they continued dating during Roger’s senior year. When he graduated, Roger was offered a job at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Manufacturing Corporation in California, and he wanted her to come with him. They were married on March 10,1963 with a firm understanding that she would be finishing her degree (which she did) once they got there. They “honeymooned” in their semi-reliable Volkswagen bug all the way from Missouri to California complete with a days-long setback when they broke down in New Mexico.
Roger managed to report to his new job on time only to discover that the contract, for which he had been hired, had fallen through. Luckily there were recruiters from other companies there that day and Roger was employed as a junior project manager for a company called Marquardt who had been given the task of developing the attitude control thruster for the Apollo Service Module and Lunar Module. After receiving his Masters in Engineering at the University of Southern California, Roger was promoted to senior project engineer for the Apollo program, in charge of another dozen engineers and responsible for the performance of the Marquardt R-4D reaction control system. There were 32 of these little rockets in the casing of the main rocket that guided the lunar module when landing on the moon and again when they shifted to the control module to lift off of the moon. Marquardt delivered this system for all of the 6 successful Apollo missions over an 8-year period and sent 12 men to the moon.
He also became a father;-)
After the space program ended Roger and his family moved back to Kansas City and he began working in aviation with Puritan Bennett developing oxygen delivery systems. When he left Puritan Bennett, after 20-plus years, he became the South American sales representative for Drager Aerospace. He particularly loved the opportunity of working at the Paris Air Show every odd year and catching up on the latest technology in the industry. The last project he worked on before finally retiring was the Dreamliner at Boeing in Seattle, which Roger referred to as “the most beautiful city in the continental U.S.” His closest friends were those he connected with while working and they were in all parts of the world.
He was warm, kind, and generous.
Roger died peacefully in his sleep on October 22, 2023, with adoring family members surrounding him after years of battling Parkinson’s disease. The Chiefs beat the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium later that afternoon. (Yes, Taylor Swift was there ;-)
He leaves behind his children Derek (Laura) Moffett, Susan (Chuck) Moffett Barrick, granddaughters Alexandria and Catherine, and wife of 59 years, Patricia Moffett.
He is greatly missed.