Long after the obituaries, the tributes, the solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, there was this: a modest Cape Cod house in the D.C. suburbs and an estate sale of the things John Glenn left behind.
Glenn died in December 2016, but the news that his suburban D.C. home and all of its contents were on sale still drew crowds last weekend, who waited in 30-degree weather to buy something that once belonged to the first American to orbit the earth.
Nearly every time a customer emerged Friday on the second day of the estate sale, the line burst into cheers and applause. A man who walked out carrying a lamp made of a rifle was greeted with particular enthusiasm. A woman who walked out toting Glenn’s old leaf-blower drew good-natured ribbing. “I’ve got John Glenn’s blower; I’m going to use it to go to outer space,” one man crowed.
Nina Harris of Glenn Dale, Md., emerged from the house carrying a pot de crème set and a multicolor shawl once owned by Annie Glenn.
She drove nearly an hour to get to the sale, and did so in part to pay her respects.
Both Nina and her father worked for NASA, and her father worked on Glenn’s 1962 mission to orbit the earth. He has pictures with Glenn at the launch site at Cape Canaveral.
Nina worked at Goddard Space Center for 30 years. When Glenn went back to space at age 77 in 1998, she got his autograph.
Being in Glenn’s old home, she said, “was magical. Warm. You could tell it was just a warm, loving house just from the things they collected …. You would like to sit in his big easy chair. It was lovely.”
Inside the house, crowds rifled through books — Glenn appeared to have an affinity for historical fiction — and glassware. A special room for Glenn-related memorabilia necessitated another long line, with five people permitted at a time. Upstairs, a box held dozens of white gloves worn by Annie Glenn.
Outside, in the garage, not far from antiquated snow skis, a table full of Christmas tchotchkes and a relatively unused–looking saw, a children’s school desk sat off to the side, unpriced. Carved in it were the words “Mansfield,” “Newark,” and, in the lower left corner, “John” and “Annie.”
John and Annie Glenn were childhood friends who became high school sweethearts, their lives taking them from Ohio to Florida to Washington, D.C., and, in John’s case, outer space. Annie turned 98 in February. As of Friday, her former kitchen remained packed with the recipe books and kitchen tools that make up a lifetime of meals.
On Friday, Kailyn and Daniel Van Schooten walked out of the Glenn’s old home carrying a set of napkins, two champagne glasses that they bought for $3 each and a sign that says “No Sniveling.”
The couple has been married a year. They’re still furnishing their small Takoma Park apartment, and the champagne glasses will come in handy, they said. But when they saw the “No Sniveling sign,” they decided to buy it without knowing the price.
“I walked up the checkout and said, ‘So I found this in the garage,’” Daniel said, expecting them to look at it and say, “This is amazing! $50.”
Instead, the cashier said, “How about $5?”
For the Van Schootens, the value can’t be calculated.
“Twenty years from now when we have kids who are teenagers, that’s going to be hanging there,” said Kailyn.
Added Daniel, pointing to the sign, “Our entire life it’s going to be, ‘John Glenn says…’”