Original Rocket Boys Come Home for Final Festival

BECKLEY, W.Va (WOAY) – In its final year, the Rocket Boys Festival continued on Friday as best-selling author and West Virginia native Homer Hickam along with fellow Rocket Boy Roy Lee Cooke returned home. They visited the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley to talk with students who were bused in from all over the state to see them. 

“It really is cool that even now we have so many young people who love this story and therefore they kind of like us too and so Roy and I are able to tell about growing up in the coalfields of way back in the 1950s West Virginia and yet it’s a story that still works for young people today,” Hickam said.  

And the young people from Man Elementary School were hanging onto every word as the two talked about their life growing up in Coalwood, West Virginia and how they went from blowing up rockets in the yard to Hickam becoming a NASA engineer and best-selling author and Cooke a successful businessman. This visit was all part of the Rocket Boys Festival which after 20 years will be coming to a bittersweet end. 

“I feel sad that it is the last one, yet Homer and I have talked about it a long time,” Cooke said. “We want to go out while we still can go out.” 

 But the two men remain thankful for the festival for giving them a reason to come home and reunite. 

“Well I love my brother, Roy Lee. I love all the Rocket Boys,” Hickam said. “We lost Quentin just a month or so ago, and we really, really miss him. We’ll all be brothers for life and everybody that we grew up with, we are just so close to them. But honestly all of the young people that we meet now in West Virginia, we just feel like we’re related to them in our experiences and our optimism toward life and having a good life.” 

For a full list of festival events, click here.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.