DULUTH (AP) -- His classmates remember that the name seemed to fit.
"We couldn't believe someone would have the name Willy McCool," former Duluth resident David Hatton said of the space shuttle Columbia pilot killed Saturday. "McCool. And that's what he was."
Cmdr. William C. McCool was among seven crew members killed when the shuttle broke apart 39 miles above Texas as it reentered the Earth's atmosphere.
McCool, who was 41, lived in Duluth in the early 1970s when his father was stationed at the Duluth Air Force Base. He attended Chester Park Elementary School and Woodland Middle School, and regularly attended youth groups at University United Methodist Church. He was a Boy Scout.
Hatton, who lives in Philadelphia, was in a church group with McCool and remembered his funny, confident and easygoing demeanor. McCool was always eager to help out and was quick to make friends, Hatton said Sunday.
"He was somebody who everyone liked. Even back then, he was popular with the girls," Hatton said.
McCool was born in San Diego, spent about three years in Duluth and graduated from high school in Lubbock, Texas.
Duluth resident Chauncey Riggs Jr. remembers McCool's all-American smile and can-do attitude.
"He could always do anything he wanted to," said Riggs, who played baseball and went to school with McCool. "And I remember him having an interest in flying."
Riggs regularly checks the NASA Web site to monitor shuttle flights. He said he was stunned in mid-January when he checked the site and saw McCool was heading into space. "It was neat to see someone who I knew," Riggs said.
The Columbia mission was McCool's first trip into space. He was married and had three children.
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