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39 years at NASA for NWGA native
• The space race was an exciting time, the Berry alumna recalls.

Dr. Ann Whitaker

Man first set foot on the moon 50 years ago Saturday, and behind that single step was an entire army of individuals helping make it possible.

Men and women from all over America lent a hand in the process, including Dr. Ann Whitaker, a Berry College alumna and Plainville native.

After graduating from Calhoun High School, Whitaker attended Berry with interest in doing her part in the space race.

"I majored in physics and had signed up to work in that area because at that time the Russians were launching Sputnik," said Whitaker of the Soviet-launched satellite. "The U.S. was technically needy in that area."

Whitaker was among the first women to receive a degree in physics from Berry College, graduating in 1961.

While on a fellowship at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Whitaker says she was talked into heading to Huntsville to apply for a NASA job sometime in 1962 or '63.

"I had a friend who had also gone to Berry who said she was tired of going to school and not having any money," Whitaker said.

"She said 'let's go up to Huntsville.' We got job offers right away."

Little did she know at the time, but Whitaker's broke friend had led her into a successful lifelong career in the space program.

"I worked in the laboratory on lubrication surface physics," Whitaker recalls. "At that time there weren't as many electrical systems as there were mechanical, so we had to be concerned about surfaces that moved against each other. We worked with solid film lubricants, bearing systems, and even the tractor crawler."

Whitaker said it was an interesting time working for NASA during the space race and especially the Apollo 11 mission efforts.

"It was exciting," Whitaker said. "Everybody was working as hard as they could to make it happen. You just felt like you were part of it."

During her early years working in Huntsville, Whitaker recalls the great interest in the space program from the outside, which even led to a few encounters with celebrities.

"I remember Lady Bird Johnson visiting and I was able to introduce her to some people," Whitaker said. "I also spent time playing tour guide for the famous South African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard, and even spent an hour showing around the guy who played (Ed) Norton on the Honeymooners," referring to actor Art Carney. "He was a very serious person and asked a lot of questions."

As far as the eventual moon landing itself, Whitaker said although she played a small part in the event, she didn't do anything particularly interesting to commemorate the feat that night half a century ago.

"I just remember watching that picture of stepping on the moon," Whitaker said. "I stayed up that night and watched from home ... It doesn't seem like it's been 50 years.

Eventually, Whitaker earned her masters in physics at Alabama-Huntsville and a doctorate in engineering from Auburn, and went on to work 39 years at NASA in a number of capacities.

"I worked in different areas, was head of the materials and processes lab and even spent a little time in the Washington, D.C., headquarters," Whitaker said.

Later in her career, Whitaker served as director of the Science Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and was a 2003-04 Hermann Oberth Award recipient from the Alabama-Mississippi Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Today, Whitaker is considered a pioneer in developing methods for predicting the performance of materials in the space environment and now lives as a retiree back in Huntsville where her space career began so many years ago.

Progress continuing along the Maple Ave. corridor
• Sidewalk work and new homes will freshen the view between Rome and Lindale.

The Northwest Georgia Housing Authority and Rome Community Development office, while not necessarily working in a formal partnership, have each focused redevelopment efforts along the Maple Avenue corridor in recent years and the work is showing visible signs of progress.

Two new single-family homes being constructed by the NWGHA are almost complete. Framing has been completed on two duplex units on East 12th Street and work on another replacement home near the old Maple Grocery has just gotten started.

Meanwhile the Community Development office has been putting sidewalk replacement money in the Community Development Block Grant program for several years and just awarded a new contract for additional work to Spriggs Construction of Rome. Spriggs submitted the low bid of $164,765 for replacement of sidewalk between East Eighth Street and East 12th Street. As motorists head south toward Lindale, the new sidewalk will be located on the left, or east side of the road.

"We anticipate them starting sometime the first week of August," said Rome Community Development Director Bekki Fox. She said the sidewalk in that area is pretty badly deteriorated.

"We'll come back with 2019 funds for Phase Two, either continuing on that side of the street all the way to Brown Street, or we'll pick up the other side of the road."

The 2019 Community Development Block Grant budget is in a public comment period. It includes $186,407 for sidewalk improvements, which is earmarked for the Maple Avenue corridor.

"What we're doing in the area helps what the housing authority is doing, not that we're partnering or collaborating," said Fox.

Rick Waters in the code enforcement office has really been focused on that whole corridor. Demolition of dilapidated housing has been at the forefront of his efforts. Several homes have come down in the last year on East 17th and East 18th streets, Crane Street and Flannery Street.

"I've got court orders for one on East 14th and another on Willingham Street," Waters said.

In the meantime, the housing authority will once again seek a Choice Neighborhood planning grant of $1.3 million for the entire East Rome-Maple Avenue-East 12th Street community. Should the planning grant be awarded, it would put the housing authority in line for a potential implementation grant of upwards of $30 million.

The authority applied for the same grant funds on three previous occasions but has been unsuccessful each time.

"We don't give up," Hudson said. "You have to be persistent."


CRBI conducted bacterial water monitoring at four sites that included Grizzard Park, Euharlee Road, Neel's Landing off of U.S. 411 and Heritage Park on July 17. The results of those monitoring efforts showed that 15.5 cfu/lOOmL of E. coli were present at Grizzard Park, 67.6 cfu/lOOmL were present at Euharlee Road, 16.9 cfu/lOOmL were present at Neel's Landing, and that 34 cfu/lOOmL of E. coli were present at Heritage Park. This means that the amount of E. coli found at each site is considered safe for recreational use by the state of Georgia.

If you are interested in learning more, or if you would like to nominate a site for future testing, contact Ashley Ray, outreach coordinator, at 706-232-2724 or

A peachy day

It's Clocktower 5K time again
• The 34th annual Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race and 2 Mile Health Walk set for Aug. 17

Registration is now open for the Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Road Race and 2-Mile Health Walk. The event, set for Aug. 17, is the oldest road race in Rome and a runner favorite across the Southeast. Participants comprise a variety of ages and skill levels, from children to senior citizens, novice to elite athlete. On average, 500 walkers and runners and 75 volunteers participate in this annual event and proceeds benefit The Exchange Club Family Resource Center (

The Aug. 17 race will start at 8 a.m. The 5K begins on Second Avenue, runs through Historic Downtown Rome, Myrtle Hill and the challenging Clocktower Hill. The 2-Mile Health Walk follows a similar route, excluding Clocktower Hill in favor of the scenic Riverwalk Path.

Registration for the chip-timed 5K can be submitted online or form downloaded at Registration with pre-registration discounts are available as follows: Postmarked or registered on by July 27 (5K is $25; 2 Mile is $20); from July 28 until Aug. 8 (5K is $30; 2 Mile is $25). Teams of 10 or more (any combination of run and walk) will receive a discount of $3 per person (registrations for each team must all be submitted together no later than Aug. 8 to qualify for this discount). Race Day registration is open from 6:30 to 7:30 am for a cost of $35 for 5K and $30 for the 2 Mile.

The 2019 event is sponsored by Daniele Tedesco Law, Coosa Valley Fair Association, Exchange Club of Rome, Rome Orthopaedic Center,

Dempsey Auction Co., Floyd Medical Center, Pridemore Cox Orthodontics, Redmond Regional Medical Center, Advance Rehabilitation, Garner & Glover Insurance, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Healing Arts Center, Heritage Auto Group, KA Athletics, Newby-Stahl Advisory Group, Owens Financial Group, Truett's Chick-fil-A and VT Industries.

Looking for his lifesaving match
• A local man's family is searching for someone who can provide a cure.

Kenneth Cheeks

Kenneth Cheeks is looking for his perfect match.

The search began March 30, when after going to the dentist to get his teeth pulled, Kenneth Cheeks ended up in the hospital.

"His strength started leaving him, I mean he couldn't even get out of bed, so we went to Redmond Regional and within a couple of hours they had diagnosed him," his wife Renae Cheeks explained.

That day, Cheeks found out he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a cancer that affects both the blood and bone marrow.

He would soon find out he also had a rare gene, which is why so far he has been unable to receive treatment. Doctors have recommended a transplant, which would give him the chance to have a full recovery.

However, at this moment, they haven't found someone who could be a suitable donor.

Renae Cheeks said, "There are millions of people in the database but there wasn't a match for him, so we're reaching out to the community, and hoping and praying for a match."

The Cheeks' church family, Thankful Missionary Baptist Church, will be hosting a bone marrow drive for Kenneth Cheeks this Sunday, July 21.

Located on 935 Spider Webb Drive, the event will begin at 1 p.m. at the church and last until 5 p.m. Ages 18-44 are able to register for free, however there is a $100 fee for those over the age of 44.

Mouth swabs will be done on-site for testing.

Also, Stephanie Jones, a coordinator from "Be The Match," will give a presentation at Thankful's 10:45 a.m. service. She will be speaking on the importance of being a donor and dispelling the myths surrounding its requirements.

Renae Cheeks said, "A lot of people don't understand that 'transplant' doesn't necessarily mean surgery."

She expressed her gratitude for the support the community has been showing them through this ordeal.

"Our church family has been a rock. Along with our pastor, they have been so loving and supportive. A lot of other family and friends, too ... even his school teacher," she said while laughing.

She admits they still have a long way to go.

"I'm not sure how long we're gonna be dealing with this, but everyone's just been a blessing. Even though Kenneth has a rare gene, we still trust and believe in God that there is a match."

For anyone looking for further information, you can contact Renae Cheeks at 706-766-4341 or Chanterria McKeever at Thankful at 706-291-8132.


Kimora Holiday, a fourth-grader at Pepperell Elementary School