Hemphill museum owners honor man that made their museum possible

Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 6:14 PM CST
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LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Albert Smith might not be from East Texas, but he definitely left his mark on our area by funding a special museum that honors the victims of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy.

Smith financed the Patricia Smith NASA Museum in Hemphill, named after his late wife.

Museum owners said Smith helped make their vision a reality.

"You know this kind of like wasn't supposed to happen," said owner Marsha Cooper. "They weren't expecting this and they really didn't know what really happened."

Marsha Cooper and Belinda Gay remembered the day space shuttle Colombia exploded across East Texas.  They said February 1, 2003 was a game changer for Sabine County.

"KC's husband mentioned education to us, so that's how we started moving towards building something for education in our community," Cooper said.

There was still a missing piece, the two needed funding to create the museum.

It so happened they ran into Smith who believed in educating the community.

"He was a very generous and kind spirit. I immediately realized he wanted to make the world a better place than it was," Cooper said.

The museum was built next to the J.R. Huffman Library.

Smith passed away recently and even though he isn't around his mission to educate the youth still lives.

"We're honored that he took the time to get to know our community and to support our community and help us continue the legacy of Colombia and its crew," Gay said.

Cooper and Gay said Smith would want them to continue their mission, educating anyone that walks through the museum.

"It's all about the education and that we leave a legacy for our children, so one day we may have the greatest generation that ever comes out of Sabine County," said Cooper.

Museum organizers said they have another exhibit honoring the Colombia space shuttle they hope to open to the public soon.