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Posted: September 17, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Covington church has its own fire truck

Dr. David Simons leaves unusual item to church in his will— a fire truck

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Churches regularly receive donations, mostly in the form of money or land, sometimes in stock or items that can be put to practical use.

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Covington got a fire truck.

It’s a 1983 Mack CF6 diesel pumper truck, and of course it’s red.

It has seven hoses and a gasoline-powered generator which runs the pump. The siren has been disconnected, which is standard procedure when a fire truck is purchased by anyone not affiliated with a fire department, but the lights and distinctive "big rig" horn are still operational.

"It’s a great toy to have, and it makes you smile to look at it," said the Rev. Timothy Graham, the church rector. "I think we might try to have a little fun with it before we sell it."

The fire truck was donated by the estate of Dr. David Simons, a church member who passed away earlier this year.

"Dr. Simons was a unique, brilliant man," said the Rev. Graham. "He was a very gifted, very driven man, and a bit eccentric."

Simons was a physician and a leading authority in research involving chronic muscle pain. He and his team published books and articles on the causes and treatments of conditions such as muscle cramps and TMJ.

He was a participant in the 1950s in the Air Force’s Man High program, a forerunner of the United States space program. Simons was launched into the atmosphere on Aug. 19, 1957, in a small aluminum capsule attached to a helium balloon. He spent just over 32 hours in the capsule and reached an altitude of 102,000 feet, a record. He was featured on a "Life" magazine cover as a result of his flight.

In 1997, Simons was looking for a way to water his lawn more effectively. He began to research the idea of using a pumper truck to pump water from a lake and transport the water back to his home. So, he paid $20,000 for a truck from a volunteer fire department in Lawrenceville, Va.

Reportedly, he only used the truck once or twice, but he kept it. Upon his death, his family attempted to sell the truck and did not know what to do with it, so they donated it to the church.

"He’s the only person I know who would have the idea to buy a fire truck to water his lawn and actually go through with it," said Lee Meadors, a member of the church’s vestry.

Upon receiving the truck, the leadership of the church knew it would be both a fascinating conversation piece and a difficult item to sell.

"When his daughter asked me if we wanted the truck, I knew it would be a bit of a challenge to liquidate it, but I also knew it would be a fun thing to do," said Graham.

Meadors drove it to the church campus on a Sunday, showing it off to the congregation and allowing children to play on it. However, because the church has not purchased insurance on it, the truck remains in storage. Another church member is going to clean and restore the truck.

Graham says the church has not had the truck appraised and has no plans on how or when to sell it.

He says the truck is the quirkiest donation he has ever seen. But the church has enjoyed having it, even for a little while.

"This truck brings out the kid in me any time I’m around it," said Meadors.

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