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High school rocket gets facelift

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Community rallies together to get icon repainted

By Lisa King

Don't worry, the SCHS rocket didn't blast off Tuesday, although it did take a trip through town.

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The rocket, which is actually an authentic Air Force rocket, was lifted off its stand at the school by a crane and placed onto a flat bed truck and taken to a local body shop to be repainted. As befitting its status as a community icon, the rocket was escorted by sheriff's deputies from Rocket Lane to Hi Tech Body Shop on Henry Clay Street.

Former Shelby County High School art teacher Jim Terhune, who was instrumental in acquiring the rocket for the school in 1993, also spearheaded the $7,000 plus project to have it repainted.

"I wasn't the only person involved in this effort, many others made it possible; everything has been donated, it didn't cost the school system anything," Terhune said. "The paint was donated, Rob Purnell donated his crane; Ace Hardware donated some materials, Paul Hornback furnished a wagon to haul it on and Hi Tech Body Shop is going to paint it."

Rod McMurray, owner of Hi Tech Body Shop, also gave the rocket its first paint job before it was ever installed at the high school.

"He (Terhune) and I worked together to get it to the old Coca-Cola plant, where I had to do a lot of stripping and painting," McMurray said. "It's a real 'Honest John' parade rocket, and over the years it's been through a lot at the high school. It's been egged, had graffiti written on it, rocks thrown at it, and had people climbing on it. For the last four years, we have been planning to touch it up, and now it has finally all come together."

Kerry Whitehouse, Assistant Superintendent for Operations for Shelby County Schools, said that in addition to materials, such as paint, transportation, and labor, at least three people have donated money to have the rocket repainted.

"But they wish to remain anonymous and we have to honor their wishes, and also say that we are extremely grateful to them for their generosity," he said.

McMurray said that the renovation of the rocket has truly been a community-wide team effort.

"So many people have helped," he said. "We've had everybody from anonymous donors who have given money, to the Shelby County Class of 2009 who have pulled together to help, to principal Eddie Oakley to Bumper to Bumper who got Dupont to furnish the paint. Now me and Keaton and Shannon and Randal here at Hi Tech will do the rest."

Terhune said the rocket will be at Hi Tech for about three weeks, and in the spring he plans to get the stand it is mounted on repainted also.