WASHINGTON -- Although their marriage ended in divorce in 1976, Michael Oldak and Judith Resnik remained good friends. They talked on the telephone every few months, usually about her new life as an American astronaut.
'Hey, if you had a friend who was an astronaut, wouldn't you enjoy talking to him,' Oldak said Monday -- six days since the explosion of the shuttle Challenger that killed Resnik and six other space explorers.
'Judith died doing what she wanted to be doing -- setting off to outer space,' said Oldak, 38, an attorney with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. 'She was living out a dream.'
In August 1984, Judith Resnik invited Oldak to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to watch her blast off to become the second American woman to orbit the Earth. He sat with his former in-laws to share the joy.
On Friday, Oldak, who remarried a few years ago, flew to Akron, Ohio, to again be with his former in-laws -- this time to share the grief.
'It was good for all of us to be together,' Oldak said.
Oldak and Resnik met in 1966 when she was a freshman and he a senior at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Both majored in electrical engineering.
'What we primarily did together was study,' said Oldak. 'We spent a lot of time at the library. I wouldn't say Judith was driven, but she was dedicated to doing the best she could.'
A gourmet cook, classical pianist and runnerup to the college homecoming queen, Resnik excelled at many things.
'She was also an excellent navigator' in sports car rallies, said Oldak, who sat behind the wheel in his TR-6 sports car, with Resnik at his side, in many such events during their college days.
They were married June 14, 1970, a few weeks after Resnik graduated. They went off to Morristown, N.J., Both got engineering jobs with RCA Corp.
A few years later, after Oldak decided to switch careers, they moved to Washington, D.C., so he could go to Georgetown University Law School.
Resnik enrolled at the University of Maryland, a few miles up the road, for a doctorate in electrical engineering.
They separated in 1975 and their divorce became final a year later.
'We just decided we were interested in different things,' said Oldak. 'But we remained friends, good friends.'
Oldak said Resnik never mentioned wanting to be an astronaut while they were married, but he wasn't suprised that she responded to NASA's call for scientists.
'Judith was always interested in research,' he said. 'And like many of those in our generation, she was interested in space exploration.'
He said, 'Judith didn't want to be called a woman astronaut or a Jewish astronaut, just an astronuat. She just wanted to be part of the space program.'
Oldak said they last spoke a month ago when he telephoned her in Houston.
He said, 'I remember Judith saying that she was concerned whether the shuttle would go off on time.'