Gov. Jack Markell, Lewes Mayor Ted Becker, and members of the Freeman family will join with Delaware River and Bay Authority representatives for a ceremony at 9 a.m., Wednesday, June 18, to unveil a new commemorative plaque honoring local hero Capt. Theodore C. Freeman. The ceremony will take place at the Lewes Ferry Terminal, 43 Cape Henlopen Drive.
While many bicyclists and motorists use the Freeman Highway every day, a significant number may not realize the meaning or origin behind the designation.
Immediately following the plaque ceremony, join Markell, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and other dignitaries for the official opening of the Gordons Pond Trail at 10 a.m., at Herring Point in Cape Henlopen State Park on the eve of the 50th anniversaries of both the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and Cape Henlopen State Park.
The Freeman Highway approach road to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry was named in honor of Freeman. On Feb. 3, 1964, Freeman, a Lewes High School graduate, was assigned to NASA’s Apollo Branch - joining Gordon Cooper, Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan and Alan Bean at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. At the same time, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry was gearing up to begin service July 1, 1964.
Freeman chose to make up routine flight hours near Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, Oct. 31, 1964, when he unexpectedly encountering a flock of snow geese, one smashed into the canopy of his T-38A Talon jet, sending pieces of plexiglass into both engines. Both engines failed. Realizing he wouldn’t clear military homes - some of which housed fellow astronauts - he desperately banked away from the houses. This unselfish act cost him his life.
Freeman became the first American astronaut to lose his life in the country’s quest to get to the moon.
At the time of the tragedy, the approach road to the Lewes Ferry Terminal was under construction.
The authority designated the approach road Freeman Highway, forever recognizing and honoring the contributions of Freeman, and his service to this country.
Freeman Highway is also an important connector between the Junction & Breakwater and the new Gordons Pond trails.
A second plaque will be installed at a later date on Freeman Highway where bicyclists who are using the new trail can view the plaque.