Marilyn Lovell, wife of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, with there of the couple's children after the lunar mission crew returned safely to Earth.

Marilyn Lovell with three of her with children, from left, Susan, Barbara and Jeffrey, at a press conference after her husband Jim Lovell's safe splashdown in Apollo 13 following its aborted lunar landing mission, April 17, 1970.

By Jacqui Banaszynski

In the mood for an enduring romance? Mine came this week through the obituary of Marilyn Lovell, wife of Apollo astronaut Jim Lovell. The couple were portrayed by Kathleen Quinlan and Tom Hanks in Ron Howard’s 1995 film, “Apollo 13,” which retold the story of the failed moon mission.

The obit, by Alex Traub of The New York Times, was not overdone or overly long, which was one of its strengths. It followed a pretty standard obit structure. But it was chock-full of the kind of moments and mini-stories that, taken in aggregate, are the hallmark of a good obit.

Some of those moments were familiar echoes from the movie (which I’ve watched multiple times). It’s noteworthy that the best film scenes featuring Marilyn were, according to Traub’s reported piece, based pretty squarely in truth: A mountain on the moon is, indeed, named for her; she did sit with Jim Lovell’s mother and several top astronauts to watch the news as the crew made its never-been-done-before return to Earth; she faced the hordes of reporters who camped on her lawn for several days with equanimity; she reassured her children of their father’s return even as she, herself, must have been shaken to the core.

But the moment in Marilyn’s that was not in the film may go down as my favorite, and is now my standard for the most perfect gift line on Earth and beyond. On Christmas Day 1968, Jim Lovell was with the crew of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. A package arrived at the Lovell home in Houston for Marilyn. It held a mink coat and a brief note: “To Marilyn from the Man in the Moon.”

That’s a fine bit of writing, and the kind of meaningful, true-life detail that should be in every profile we pursue.

Marilyn Lovell was 93. Jim Lovell continues to live in their long-time home of Lake Forest, Illinois. Marilyn also is survived by their four children, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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