By Roger McKinney
NEOSHO, Mo. —
A space-themed mural that for 50 years had graced a cafeteria wall at the former Rocketdyne plant got its new home Thursday in Davidson Hall at Crowder College.
Now Premiere Turbines, Rocketdyne in the 1960s produced components for the Saturn V rocket that took Americans to the moon.
Former Rocketdyne employee Lawrence Sanchez was a technical artist who moved to Neosho from Boston, Mass., to work for the company. He painted the mural in 1963.
One end of the mural includes what appears to be an Apollo-era capsule, which may have been in the planning stages in 1963. There also are planets and stars, and what appears to be Sanchez’s interpretation of future space stations.
Bill Martz, 80, watched Sanchez as he was creating the mural. Martz worked at Rocketdyne and its subsequent incarnations for 38 years, from 1958 to 1996.
“He was a great guy,” Martz said of Sanchez.
He said he’s glad the mural has a new home, where it will have more exposure. The hall where the mural is located is outside science classrooms and labs at Crowder.
“It’s a great place for it,” Martz said.
Sanchez’s daughter, Deidre Sanchez, speaking by phone, said she wished she could have been at the dedication. She said her dad is 95 and living in Carrollton, Texas. She said he has Alzheimer’s disease, but he still paints.
“I’m very proud of him,” she said. “He’s been an artist his entire life.”
Martz was one of several retired and current employees of the former Rocketdyne who were on hand for the dedication.
“We really want the mural to be enjoyed by people for many years to come,” said Penny Paul, human resources manager at Premiere Turbines.
STEVE ROARK, a member of the Newton County Tourism Council, handed out copies of the new “Walking Tour of the Murals of Neosho” brochure. Roark noted that the brochure already was out of date, because the Rocketdyne mural isn’t included. He said it would be in future versions.