Mr. Holmes, an avid aviator, was also instrumental in the company’s purchase of Beech Aircraft Corp. His home near the airport in Nantucket was nicknamed Wild Blue Yonder, Ledbetter said.
‘‘I remember Brainerd as kind, witty, and very patriotic,’’ Ledbetter said. ‘‘Everything he did, he did for his country.’’
His first marriage, to Dorothy Bonnet Holmes, ended in divorce. His wife Roberta Donohue Holmes died in 1999.
In addition to his stepson, he leaves his wife since 2002, Mary Margaret England Wilkes Holmes of Wellesley; two daughters from his first marriage, Katherine Kobos of Concord, and Dorothy “Pixie” Kather of Los Altos, Calif; two other stepchildren from his third marriage, Baylor Ledbetter Stovall of Memphis and Margaret Ledbetter Weaver of Hickory Valley, Tenn.; 11 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A private service will be held in Wellesley.
During his two years at NASA, Mr. Holmes fended off naysayers, including congressmen and former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who believed it was foolhardy to spend billions of dollars to sendpeople to the moon. But Mr. Holmes believed the scientific and military credibility of the United States depended on the space program.
“We have plenty of skeptics,” he said in 1962. “They’re all over the place, and loud. But the head of the project can’t be a skeptic.”
Material from Globe staff and the Associated Press was included in this report.