And then there were two.

The death Thursday of Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr. at age 84 spurred fond memories of those halcyon days of early space flight when he and six others became America's first astronauts.

These men, the Mercury 7, had "the right stuff," as novelist Tom Wolfe later dubbed it. They became Cold War heroes.

Gone now are Schirra, Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, L. Gordon Cooper, and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton. Only John Glenn and Scott Carpenter still walk on Earth.

Born in Hackensack, N.J., Schirra first took the controls of a plane at age 13 at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport. His father was the pilot instructing him. After the Naval Academy, Schirra flew missions in the Korean War, became a test pilot, then in 1959 joined the astronaut program.

Schirra was the only astronaut to fly in each of the first three U.S. space programs - Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. He flew into space in 1962, 1965 and 1968 - that last flight being the first after three astronauts were killed in a 1967 launchpad fire. Talk about bravery.

Famous for his quick wit, Schirra was once asked what it felt like to wait for takeoff in a space capsule atop a rocket. "You think all these hundreds of thousands of parts were put together by the lowest bidder," he said.

Have a good flight, Mr. Schirra.