The Bill Lende Collection

When Bill Lende invented the aftermarket air conditioner for the Volkswagen Beetle in 1969, he probably didn’t expect one of his first customers would be an astronaut.

But that’s exactly what happened when Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, drove his personal vehicle to San Antonio, Texas in 1970 to have Lende’s newly invented HEATRANSFER air conditioner unit added to his Beetle. As a thank you gift to Lende, Aldrin sent a large image of himself on the moon, personalized with this message:

“To HEATRANSFER … An American stands proudly at Tranquility Base / Quality is mutually our most important product / Buzz Aldrin”

Thus began a love affair with all things space for Lende. Already a collector of letters written by inventors and scientists, this respected inventor, engineer, rancher, and philanthropist would go on to amass an impressive collection of aerospace memorabilia.

The signed Aldrin poster will remain with Lende’s family, due to its significance and sentimentality. But the historical collection it inspired him to collect will now be proudly shared with you by RR Auction.

Henry Willard (Bill) Lende, Jr., was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dec. 29, 1937; his family moved to Garland, Texas, after World War II. Lende held a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering and an M.S. in solar engineering, and made his home in San Antonio.

After a successful business career, he established the Lende Foundation with his brother Bob and sister-in-law Elizabeth in 1978, where he served as board chairman for 30 years. A huge fan of science and engineering, Lende collected notes, photos and letters from many of the great minds of the 19th and 20th centuries: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, among many others. He compiled his research into a series of historical monographs circulated at Christmas among his like-minded friends, including us here at RR Auction. A full set of them now belongs to the Smithsonian Institution. Lende died Sept. 9, 2016, at the age of 78.

Because Lende was a long-time client and friend of RR Auction, his family has entrusted RR Auction to present to the public his beloved space exploration collection of personal correspondences, autographed photos, official memos and more. The extensive collection documents—in an intimate, first-person manner—the United States’ journey from terra firma to the heavens.

Lende’s collection tells the story of space exploration as it meticulously unfolds via direct accounts from the trailblazing astronauts, visionary scientists, key NASA personnel and high-ranking government officials who enabled that “giant leap for mankind.”

From the earliest dreams of the 1950s, to the plans for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, to glimpses of the future of space exploration, Lende’s collection stands alone as one man’s dedication to preserving one of the most important facets of modern history.

Proceeds from this auction will help to support Lende’s nonprofit Cibolo Preserve in Boerne, Texas.

In June 1981, Lende began purchasing property to create his Herff Falls Ranch in Boerne and became a dedicated land steward. For 27 years, he operated the property as a working farm, raising and selling blackberries, table grapes, and venison. In 2008, he created and endowed the nonprofit Cibolo Preserve and transferred ownership of the ranch, to be used as a natural habitat laboratory dedicated to research and education. The nationally-recognized, 644-acre karst limestone research laboratory, with 1.5 miles of Cibolo Creek flowing through it, is a critical aquifer-recharge property, with multiple ongoing research projects related to the study of nature.

“Described by many as a ‘gentleman’s gentleman,’ Lende evolved from engineer to philanthropist and land steward, without shedding the earlier roles. His friends describe a brilliant and inquisitive mind, balanced by warmth and a genuine curiosity about the many people he met.” –– San Antonio Express-News

This auction brings together two things Lende was passionate about: exploring space and protecting the Cibolo Preserve in perpetuity. We’re excited to offer this rare and remarkable collection that epitomizes our rare and remarkable friend. We are proud to have known Bill Lende and to have experienced first-hand his enthusiasm for his collection.