Kennedy High to restore historic anchor

By Jeanette Der Bedrosian
The Gazette
Thursday, March 10, 2011; T18

Since September, a rusted 4,000-pound ship's anchor has sat on the lawn in front of John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring. The anchor has drawn occasional glances from students on their way to class, though it largely went unnoticed as students rushed out the door after school last Friday.

But the anchor has a pedigree, having been part of the ship that took explorer Adm. Robert E. Peary to the North Pole in 1909 and dating back as far as the Civil War, according to Len Greig, Kennedy's Navy Junior ROTC leader.

With a little scrubbing and a fresh coat of paint, Greig and the ROTC students hope they can restore the anchor to its former glory, standing as a symbolic reminder of Kennedy's ties to the Navy. After all, the school's namesake, the former president, was a Navy man.

"It's a historical moment," said Cadet Franklin Maravilla, a sophomore from Glenmont. "There's a little piece of history with us right now."

Greig arranged to have the 8-foot by 6-foot anchor moved to Kennedy last September from the former Robert E. Peary High School, which received the anchor in 1963 in honor of its first graduating class, Greig said. The anchor had sat unmaintained since Peary closed in 1984 and was reopened in 1996 as the private Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy.

Greig surprised the NJROTC students one afternoon by bringing them to the front of the school, where contractors hired by the county were digging a hole for the anchor's foundation.

"When we got outside, there was this big truck with a huge white thing on it," Maravilla said, adding that having such a notable antique at his school is exciting.

The anchor is on loan from the Navy, Greig said, adding that its care and cost of moving is the responsibility of Kennedy High School and the NJROTC program.

When the weather gets warmer, the NJROTC students will work to strip away layers of old paint and repaint the anchor, being careful not to damage its rusting metal, Greig said. The students also are soliciting donations from friends and family to pay for part of the $7,500 it cost to move the anchor the three miles from Aspen Hill to Glenmont, Greig said. The county paid for about half of that cost, Greig said.

The anchor was part of the boat Perry used in his 1909 expedition to the Pole, which was believed to be the first successful trek to the earth's most northern extremity. Later studies found that Peary actually may have been as far as 60 miles short of the Pole.

Greig said he hopes the anchor, which he believes is made of cast iron, will become a tool to boost school pride. Peary High School students used to paint the anchor in the school's colors for homecoming, he said. Rival teams would sneak over and repaint it in their own colors.

He hopes Kennedy students will take up a similar tradition, painting the anchor for homecoming.

Greig said he also believes that the anchor represents the strong foundation Kennedy students receive through their education at the school. He added that he's looking into acquiring another artifact-an antique buoy, complete with a light on top - to keep the anchor company.

"It would be a beacon of knowledge-isn't this corny?" he said, laughing. "But that's something I want to talk to the Coast Guard about."

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