The “Rocketdyne Mural,” painted in 1963 by former Rocketdyne technical artist Larry Sanchez, has been relocated to Crowder College’s Davidson Hall, where a mural dedication was held on Thursday.
The more than 39-foot-long mural is said to be Sanchez’s interpretation of what space would look like.
The painting also represents the work performed at the Rocketdyne plant, where workers built rocket engines, helping to send Americans into space.
The mural was located in the old Rocketdyne facility’s cafeteria, where Sanchez painted it decades ago, though that part of the facility is not used anymore and the mural was no longer visible.
Premier Turbines is now housed at the old Rocketdyne site, and partnered with Crowder College, the Newton County Tourism Council and a local resident to get the mural moved to an area where it could be displayed for anyone to see.
“We’re really proud that the mural has been relocated to the college,” said Penny Paul, Premier Turbines’ human resources director. “We’re proud to be in the community, we’re proud that we can partner with Crowder to put the mural here because we really want the mural to be enjoyed by people for many years to come.”
While the Rocketdyne plant had become Continental Motors by the late 1960s, and changed hands a few more times before housing Premier Turbines, employees from throughout the historic facility’s many years were on hand for Thursday’s mural dedication.
“It’s kind of the history of the company, of what they did,” said former Rocketdyne employee Carolyn Pierce. “I’m proud of it and I’m proud of the guy who did it. It was enjoyed for several years over at the plant.”
Pierce started working for Rocketdyne in 1961 and stayed at the facility for 46 years, much of which she spent working with contracts.
Jerry Carter, former Newton County Presiding Commissioner, worked for 25 years at the plant as director of contracts and pricing.
He started in 1967, when the plant was Continental Motors, he said.
“I estimated I had about 5,000 lunches under this mural,” Carter said with a laugh. “I think it’s great. Compliments to the tourism committee and to Crowder College and to Premier Turbines for putting this plan together to save this iconic painting.”
Carter said the mural serves as a needed reminder of the significant work that has taken place in Neosho.
“It just reminds us all of the blessing we had to have a nice place to work and be on the cusp of space explorations and later on in aviation, which are two important periods in America’s history,” Carter said.
Steve Roark, with the Newton County Tourism Council, said local resident Charlie Hughes, along with Crowder Art Instructor Allen Bishop worked on relocating the mural to Crowder.
Incidentally, the Rocketdyne Mural is not Sanchez’s only artwork on display in Neosho. He also painted the four-color ceramic tile “Neosho Mural” on the south side of the Mills Park Centre building near Big Spring Park.