(CBS) – Friends and colleagues of Neil Armstrong in the Chicago area remembered the legendary astronaut Saturday as news of his passing spread.

The low-key Armstrong, who died at the age of 82, was typically modest about his contribution to the U.S. space program.

But Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell says Armstrong was essential to the mission to the moon that captivated the world more than 40 years ago.

“He was a dedicated and a very good pilot to do the job. You couldn’t have picked a better person,” Lovell said at his Lake Forest restaurant.

At her home in Naperville, a former NASA secretary looked at old newspapers and remembered Neil Armstrong, too.  She knew him well.

The astronaut was “very easy going, but when he got behind the controls of some airplane or space vehicle, he was all business. There was no space cowboy thing going on,”  Janet Faina said.

Chicagoans of a certain age probably remember the ticker-tape parade through the Loop after the moon mission and the thousands who cheered astronauts Aldrin, Collins and Neil Armstrong.

“He was a great patriot,” said Lovell, “a great believer that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish things.”