Derry has long needed a marketing plan and something to attract people to town.
Something — or someone — has been sitting under officials’ noses for quite some time — Alan B. Shepard Jr.
Now, the closet door may be open a crack since town councilors are dusting off the shelves to find things that worked and looking for something to celebrate.
The first American in space grew up in Derry, graduated from Pinkerton Academy, came from a family that supported the community in many ways, not the least of which is beloved Taylor Library in East Derry.
Town historian Richard Holmes recognizes Shepard’s role and potential. One room of the Derry History Museum is devoted to the fifth American to step foot on the moon.
But who ever sees it? The museum is rarely open and the town does nothing to promote one of its best-known citizens.
Councilors ought to take a page from Dick Bergeron’s book. He owns Spacetown Auto Body and is justifiably proud of Shepard.
The town used to be, too. May 5 was once known as Alan Shepard Day, the town itself known as Spacetown, USA. There used to be parades in his honor, souvenirs bearing his image.
When Pinkerton sports fans cheer for the Astros, there’s a reason.
Travelers on Interstate 93 recognize the astronaut’s legacy when they see the markers for the Alan B. Shepard Jr. Highway.
But drive past the Welcome to Derry signs and there’s no distinctive replica of the Freedom 7 capsule, no mention of Spacetown, USA.
As Holmes said, more people recognize Shepard’s name and role in this country’s history than know Robert Frost. Yet Frost is celebrated far more locally than Shepard is.
Recently, one concerned reader contacted this newspaper several times when the sign on the 36-acre Shepard property disappeared. It’s a parcel given to the town by the Shepard family, marked by a wooden sign. But the sign was only missing so it could be repaired. JROTC students at Pinkerton refurbished the sign and replaced it.