A long way from the heavens, in the heartland of America, one teacher’s lifetime of inspiration lives on in her absence. Her former students have made sure of that.
Growing up in the country you can wait half-a-morning and never see another car or human being. The wide-open scenery - nature’s composition has a way of fueling imagination.
If the young Coralynn Malmberg, known as Corky, were an aspiring painter - Milford, Nebraska would be her first canvas.
Her daughter, Julie Malmberg Grawe, said, “She really wanted kids to see there was more to life than rural America.”
She could do that as a teacher – spending 34-years in the Pender School District talking science and space.
“She said the NSAS Explorer School was the most proud accomplishment of her professional life,” Julie told us. “It really took Pender, a town of 1,100 people, and put us on the map.”
She said her mom kept everything. Even the NSAS jumpsuit she wore.
“She took kids to Space Camp for probably 3 or 4 years.”
A few months ago, Corky Malmberg moved into her retirement dream home – newly built in the same countryside where she grew up. But she never got to enjoy it. Cancer.
But Julie said, “She didn’t have any regrets in her life.”
Teachers often get into the business to make a difference but unless a kid says something down the road, you wonder.
For Corky though, former Pender students would always bring up a specific class project that took place every spring.
“That’s when she would do her rocket launches for her 5th and 6th grade science class,” Julie said.
So when former classmates heard their retired teacher was in hospice care they took to the Pender football field to light rockets in her name.
“It was incredible that she at least knew people were rallying for her.”
Following the church service Corky’s son and daughter, along with other family and friends, gathered in the backyard of the Milford dream home to honor her.
“We lit off rockets like the ones we would have built as kids,” Julie said.
Rockets in the afternoon – and rockets in the evening. Several carried personal messages.
“She would always say, ‘Love you more.’ So I would write ‘Love you more’ on there. Maybe she was waiting for the perfect one to hop on. And then it was quite fitting that she passed on the Fourth of July.”
If she would have been an astronaut, no doubt Corky Malmberg would have had a big impact on young minds. As it turns out she saw similar results as a small-town science teacher.
Julie said, “My hope is every Fourth of July, her former students who want to honor her light off a rocket for her.”
Coincidentally, the church service for Corky was July 20th - the 50th anniversary of our astronauts landing on the moon.