is one of a handful of workers awarded the Apollo/Saturn V Roll of Honor medal.The honor was given in the 1960s to 1 percent of all workers who helped put a man on the moon.He
is pictured above in his
Inverness home with a display of NASA memorabilia, letters of recognition and other honors dating back to the early days of the space program.MATTHEW BECK/Chronicle
has a right to feel blessed.
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is one of the crew that successfully put the first men on the moon.He
is a man who has medals, commendations and plenty of documentation, including mention in the Apollo/Saturn V Roll of Honor, a valued part of the Apollo missions to the Moon, which have been described as the greatest technological mobilization the world has known.
"I think it's part of God's grace that the son of a west Texas sharecropper like me could end up being part of one of the most important things mankind has ever done," he
is a sober, God-fearing man with a long career of increasing responsibilities, now in comfortable retirement with his
wife Margaret in Inverness.He
grew up on a farm outside of Spur, Texas, and worked hard and learned he
had a talent for working with machinery.Most especially, he
gained stamina and learned the value of endurance.
"We were coming home and admiring the beautiful crop of cotton growing in our fields.We had gone through three years of crop failures, so we were feeling pretty proud, but then my dad saw the storm clouds coming out on the horizon," Sonnamaker
said that in 1951 when he
got a draft notice, he
followed the advice of his
three brothers who had served in World War II.He joined the Air Force and learned how to be a jet engine mechanic.He
had a great time working on B-47 bombers for the Strategic Air Command worldwide, based out of MacDill Air Force Base
in Tampa.That's where he
wife, Margaret.After his enlistment, he went to work for Lockheed first, and then for Pratt & Whitney in Palm Beach where he said he had the most fun of his career, and the most dangerous time of his life working on experimental rocket engines using exotic fuels.With that experience he went to work for Boeing Corporation in Florida, the main contractor for the Apollo/Saturn V project that had as its ultimate mission to put a man on the moon.