Robert C. Wigand, P.E., married an older woman. He is 85. His new wife,
the former Dr. Mary Alice Smith, is 86. Both Wigands worked at NASA and
knew each other during their careers, but married long after retirement.
“Thanks to Goddard for giving us a common background,” says Bob, “We
know a lot of the same people.”
After retiring from the Marine Corp Reserve, Bob worked at Goddard from
1963 to 1995 and worked on building the 26 ground tracking stations we
had at one time throughout the world. He was involved with building 14
ground tracking stations for Project Mercury.
Mary Alice was a physician on contract in Goddard’s Health Unit from
1975 to 2003. For years, she worked part time at Goddard and at Headquarters
until she became full time at Goddard.
Bob and Mary Alice met when Bob would come in for his annual
checkups. Bob remembers, “When I met her at the health unit, she really
impressed me.” After one of his checkups, Mary Alice called Bob’s
daughter to make sure that Bob followed through on some of her advice.
Bob’s daughter then called him and told him that she thought Mary Alice
really liked him.
Bob eventually mustered the courage to ask Mary Alice out for a date, to
attend Goddard’s 50th Anniversary Party last May. They were so taken
with each other that they even asked the official NASA photographer to
take their picture. They dated for about five months and then got engaged.
Neither one can remember the location of their engagement. Mary Alice,
however, is still impressed that he went down on one knee. Then they
shopped together for her two carat diamond ring. The couple married the
next month on December 17, 2009, in a civil ceremony in Rockville, Md.
“We’ve been going to have a church wedding ever since,” explains Mary
Alice. Before doing so, they need to collect a multitude of documents
including death certificates and baptismal certificates. As for a wedding
reception, Mary Alice says, “We go to his children’s homes and to my
children’s homes. We’re always going somewhere.” They did manage to go
on what Mary Alice terms a “pseudo honeymoon” in Bermuda.
Between them, the Wigands have 11 children and 29 grandchildren. That’s
a lot of homes to visit. “That also means a lot of birthday and Christmas
presents. Everybody still gets a present or at least taken out to dinner. I
have a book one of my daughters-in-law fixed up for me with everybody’s
birthdays,” notes Mary Alice. She and Bob get half a dozen calls a day
from one of their children or grandchildren.
According to Mary Alice, their future plans include “taking care of the
everyday things and keeping track of all these children. We have all kinds
of things to do for everybody.” They also enjoy gardening together. They
attend the monthly Goddard Retirees and Alumnae Association luncheons
at the recreation center and often assist in labeling and addressing the
Association’s monthly newsletter.
Mary Alice’s current project is assisting the Harvard University School
of Public Health with a study of the treatments and long-term results of
different cancers. She is also working on the family lottery for the children
to determine which week each will get to spend in her summer house
in Bethany Beach, Del. A former professional pianist and violinist, she
enjoys playing these instruments for fun. She is also an accomplished
Meanwhile, Bob is busy helping the Staten Island Museum of New York,
organize an upcoming exhibit honoring his Great Aunt Adeline Albright
Wigand and Great Uncle Otto Charles Wigand, both of whom were wellknown
portrait painters whose works were exhibited at the 1886 and 1887
Salons in Paris, France. “I’m in one of the paintings going on exhibit,”
Mary Alice explains that Bob was five years old when he was painted but
that “you’d know it was Bob.” The 40–50 paintings will go on exhibit June
Bob and Mary Alice appear to be in the best of health. “We work hard at
being healthy. We walk every day at least for half an hour. If we walk like
Marines, we walk right along. That’s given us a great challenge,” explains
Mary Alice. After Bob mentions that she is a heavy coffee drinker, Mary
Alice replies, “One of the reasons I drink coffee is so I don’t eat something.
We keep our coffee pot ready.”
When asked what makes their marriage such a success, Mary Alice says
that both of them have a “most positive outlook on life.” Bob agrees. He
adds that it was “surprisingly pleasant to fall in love with Mary Alice.”
“We’re all characters in a way,” Mary Alice concluded.
Elizabeth M. Jarrell