NEW CASTLE —
A banquet held to honor those being inducted into a hall of fame had a twist to it.
The 29th annual Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet, attended by more than 300 yesterday at the New Englander, wasn’t necessarily about the people entering its halls. The overall message given by the 10 hall of famers, and two others receiving induction into the Hall of Honor, focused on the people who helped guide them to this point.
The ceremony began with Mendall Altman and Eugene “Gabby” Kendra, who joined the hall of honor. Altman, a longtime player, coach and umpire, spoke about how kids were always the inspiration of his work.
“I’m not up here for myself, I’m up here for the kids,” said Altman, who continues to umpire at the age of 82.
Kendra, 93, was one of the ambassadors of women’s sports in the New Castle area. He coached one of the first women’s softball teams back in the 1960s, and while he also was a successful baseball and softball player, he said it was coaching his daughter, Kathy, that meant the most to him.
It wasn’t just Kathy who he helped guide through softball, though. He led the Polish Falcons for 10 years.
“I don’t know about 99 percent of you in here, but it’s a good crowd,” he said with a laugh. “Some of your dads probably know me because I played a lot of sports and coached a lot of kids.”
INDUCTEES GIVE THANKS
The first hall of fame inductee to speak was Ronda Book-Beery. Book was a three-sport star at Mohawk, graduating in 1989. She starred in softball (playing on four state championship teams) and also competed in basketball and track and field. She became emotional as she continued the theme of praising those who helped bring her to this point.
“Sports got me where I’m at,” she said. “My coaches and parents taught me to work hard, and it will pay off. And it did.
“Doors have opened for me through hard work and because of the people in my life.”
Former Union star Darren Berkley, also a 1989 graduate, followed and discussed how his former basketball coach, Mike Covelli, provided the confidence that Berkley needed to realize his potential in high school. He said Covelli’s assurance helped him earn a scholarship to Houghton College.
“Thanks for the encouragement when I was young,” said Berkley, directing his comments to Covelli, a past inductee who was in attendance. “He used to give me a ride to practice, and he told me if I kept working hard, I could play at the next level. I really appreciated you believing in me.”
Former New Castle football player and coach, Chuck Cuba, a 1953 grad, followed and commended his father for giving him the wisdom to become a college football player at Virginia Tech. He said it was his words of advice that stuck with him afterward when he was an assistant coach for the Red Hurricane from 1967 to 1978.
“My dad gave me a piece of advice when I was coaching,” he remembered. “He said it’s not what you know, it’s what you can teach those kids. I always kept that with me.”
Wynn Hassan, a New Castle graduate who went to become a standout golfer at Slippery Rock University, fought back tears as he spoke about how he first caught on to the game of golf.
“My father taught me how to play this game,” said Hassan, a former NCAA Division II All-America and Division II Academic All-America. “And one of the great things about golf is you can learn it from your father as a kid, and when you grow older, you can still play with your father.”