DERRY — May 5 should always be remembered as Alan Shepard Day in Derry.
At least that’s what some people say, including town historian Richard Holmes.
Famed East Derry native and first American in space Alan B. Shepard Jr. put Derry on the map. Many residents want that historical feeling to continue, not just to honor Shepard, but also to help market the town for future success.
Shepard is one of the “603 Reasons” readers believe New Hampshire is special.
The astronaut rocketed into space on May 5, 1961, for his famous 15-minute flight aboard his Freedom 7 capsule. He was the fifth American to walk on the moon.
Holmes said he remembers Shepard in May — and all year long. He said the town could use its famous fly boy for a successful marketing campaign to help Derry grow.
There were past efforts.
Years ago, Holmes said, there was a community push to erect a statue of the astronaut somewhere in Derry, possibly in MacGregor Park or near the family homestead in East Derry.
“That would have been a big tourist attraction if they did,” Holmes said.
The idea never materialized.
Holmes said he also once supported signs saying the town was the birthplace of Alan B. Shepard.
Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said the town used to honor Shepard often with parades to celebrate the famed astronaut. In fact, every May 5 was originally deemed a community holiday by an early Town Council.
“After his flight, we were known as ‘Spacetown, U.S.A.,’” she said
In those early years, Katsakiores said, Shepard was a regular subject of souvenirs denoting his image and the “Spacetown” logo.
She mentioned at a recent Town Council meeting that the parades ended somewhere along the way.
But Shepard’s legacy does live on in some parts of town.
The Derry History Museum has an entire room dedicated to Shepard. The room houses an 11-by-8-foot photo mural showing the lunar surface, an actual photograph taken by Shepard as he took his 1971 moon steps.