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Obituary for Michael Ray Chandler

Michael Ray  Chandler
Michael Ray Chandler
November 17, 1947 – June 6, 2018

Michael Ray Chandler, USAF Major (retired), 70, of Houston, went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

Funeral Services will be held at 2:30 pm Sunday, June 10, 2018 at the Stephenville Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow at the Bosley Cemetery in Palo Pinto County with Military Honors. The family will receive friends from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm Saturday at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Foster’s Home for Children in Stephenville, Texas.

Michael was born on November 17, 1947 in Stephenville to the late Noble and Lois Marie Edwards Chandler. He was a graduate of Lipan High School. He earned a BS from Tarleton State University and an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Michael trained as a fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilot while in the U.S. Air Force (USAF). On July 5, 1973, he married Gabriele Vandercook in Copperas Cove and together they raised two children. They remained committed and loving throughout almost 45 years together and were side by side until his passing.

Michael had a love for aeronautics, serving 45 years between his time in the USAF and at NASA. He began his Air Force career flying diplomatic missions throughout Europe. He then trained in helicopters and performed search and rescue missions. As part of search and rescue, he supported Space Shuttle missions at White Sands Space Harbor, including the STS-3 landing there. This eventually led to a transfer to the Department of Defense (DOD) Manager’s Office at Patrick AFB and began his 30+year involvement with the space program. Mike served in many roles in his space career. He began with the military, became a NASA contractor and eventually served as Chief of the Human Space Flight Operations Branch at Johnson Space Center. Much of what Michael did relied on his expertise in operations and drew on his search and rescue background. He worked on many programs including the Assured Crew Return Vehicle, Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation. He supported recovery operations during the Challenger accident and was one of only two primary medical representatives selected to participate in the Columbia STS-107 Mishap Investigation Team. While these were difficult assignments, he was proud to be a part of these efforts. In addition to participating in contingency plans, he also was instrumental in providing contingency training to others. He trained over 1200 individuals in 20 locations world-wide. He also oversaw the construction of a mock-up shuttle for disaster preparedness training and was the technical director on two training videos on this subject. He managed biomedical engineers working on life sciences aspects of the Space Shuttle and ISS programs and he was responsible for flight surgeon support for missions. His work allowed him to collaborate with some of the very best scientists, doctors and engineers in the world and he had the opportunity to travel across the globe in support of his efforts while in the military and at NASA.

Michael received numerous recognitions throughout his career including a NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, Astronaut Silver Snoopy, Manned Flight Awareness Honoree, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medals (2), Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal. He was an Honorary Member Society of NASA Flight Surgeons and was recently awarded an Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences at Tarleton State University.

Family was an important part of Michael’s life. He maintained relationships with extended family and enjoyed researching his ancestry. His grandchildren brought him great joy and he loved having them at the house and attending their school and sports activities. He was an avid fisherman and baseball fan. He loved to attend Houston Astros games with family and friends. He also enjoyed family fishing trips whether it was an hour with the grandkids at the local pond or a week in Port Mansfield with his cousins.

Survivors include his wife, Gabriele ‘Cookie’ Chandler of Houston; children, Michelle Chandler Diaz and husband Juan of College Station and Joseph Franklin Chandler and wife Ekaterina of Cypress; grandchildren, Daniela Rae Diaz, Alejandro J Diaz, Clara Grace Diaz, Daniel Joseph Chandler and Anastasia Marie Chandler; siblings, Waldo Chandler and wife Patti of Lipan, and Donna Hanna of Lipan; as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He was preceded in death by parents, Noble and Lois Marie Chandler; and his twin sister, Sandra Kay Chandler.

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