New Castle News

April 29, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: Sports Hall of Famers bask in spotlight during annual banquet

Andrew Petyak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Tears were shed, careers were honored and memories were celebrated.

Hundreds gathered at the New Englander yesterday to commemorate the 2013 inductees to the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.

A record-setting attendance of 438, about 200 more than last year’s event, packed the banquet room for the 30th annual induction ceremony.

New Castle native and attorney Larry Kelly started the presentation by giving a review of the banquet’s 30-year history, mentioning the first class of Dick Allen, Phil Bridenbaugh, Darrell Dess, L. Butler Hennon, Don Hennon, Walter Mangham, Bill McPeak, C.G. “Buzz” Ridl, Chuck Tanner and Lewis “Hack” Wilson.

“It’s an honor to be able to be to be up there and introduce such wonderful people that we have who were inducted,” he said. “These people have excelled in the community, not only athletically, but as people. They’ve made our community better as people long after their athletic careers were over. That’s special to be a part of that, and I appreciate the opportunity to do that.”


Todd Atkins was the first of the 12 new hall of fame members to speak. The former Laurel linebacker and Penn State defensive end thanked former teammates and coaches, including George Miles and the late Joe Paterno.

“It takes great players and good teams to make great memories,” he said. “I’ve had some of the best.”

April Aven accepted the induction of her father, the late Anthony Aven, a star shortstop and defensive back/wide receiver for New Castle in the 1970s. Kelly recalled the toughness of his friend, stating Aven would be his first choice in a neighborhood pickup game.

The decorated history of Lynn Hailstock followed. The former standout Red Hurricane and Austin Peay defensive back was elegant in his speech, recalling the words of his father, Emanuel, to “keep working hard.”

Rob Klamut is a winner as the coach of the Westminster College swimming and diving team and also a winner as a speaker, beginning his speech by stating, “I have 28 years of memories and thanks.”

Klamut celebrated his 15th Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship this season and holds an impressive 393-164-2 career record.

Former Mohawk cross country and track and field star Diane Kukich Bucknum is still running to this day. In her senior year, she accumulated a 26-0 record in dual meets and was sixth out of 179 runners in the PIAA championship meet.  

“I still feel the same about running that I did years ago,” the married mother of two said. “I truly love it. It keeps me in shape and keeps me sane.”   

Shenango football star Evan Lipp took an academic approach to his induction speech by breaking down the definition of a hall of famer. Lipp had difficulty in identifying himself as someone worthy of the grandeur of the definition, but looked to preparation, practice and hard work as a catalyst for his success. Lipp finished his collegiate career as the all-time leading rusher in Marietta College history with 3,844 yards on 900 attempts.

June McFate added to her trophy collection with her hall of fame nod. The 83-year-old will be attending her 51st consecutive state bowling tournament this year and is a member of the state and local bowling hall of fame. She ended her speech saying, “You made an old lady very happy.”

The story of Rosemarie Perrotta’s rise through the Union girls and Westminster women’s basketball team was detailed in her speech, as she recalled her beginnings shooting hoops in her driveway while her mother watched all the way to her final game she played with a black eye and a concussion. She concluded her speech with a request to the younger crowd to stay in school and do their best.

Stacy Robinson, former Union track and field star and football running back, is best known today for coaching his alma mater. Like any good coach, he was able to deliver a powerful induction oration with memorable quotes. Robinson used his time to thank his family, coaches and those who supported him in what he called a “mountaintop moment” and finished by saying, “Your words and your life have to match up.”

Blair Sweet followed by thanking family members, coworkers and coaches for their support for his career as a running back at Wilmington High School. Sweet is just one of seven players to eclipse 4,000 rushing yards in his career in the WPIAL.

Former ’Canes linebacker Andy Tommelleo concluded the festivities honoring his family and coaches, telling of his desire to follow in the footsteps of the great New Castle players who preceded him. Tommelleo was a walk-on at Virginia Tech University, where he started, before transferring to Westminster.     


 Earlier in the evening, John Sansone and Michelle Watson were honored as the 2012 Athletes of the Year. Watson, a WPIAL champion in discus and shot put, thanked coaches and family that helped her to accomplishments at Shenango High in volleyball, track and field and softball. She competes on the women’s track and field team at Robert Morris University.

Sansone, a Neshannock star in baseball, football and basketball, was unable to attend because of obligations to the Florida State University baseball team. Kelly read a letter Sansone wrote stating his thanks to those who supported him. The Neshannock softball team also was celebrated for its 2012 PIAA Class AA championship with the Student Team Award. Coach Tracy Kimmel and former pitcher Amanda Furst accepted the award.

Two of the most recognizable names in Lawrence County were saluted with induction into the Hall of Honor — the Rev. Fats Cubellis and the Tom Riley Sr. family.

Cubellis was unable to attend the event because of health issues, and his son, Guy, gave an emotional speech about his father describing the vital role officiating played in his life.

Memories of New Castle for active youth usually meant a trip to Riley’s FunSpot. The Riley family was honored with induction into the Hall of Fame because of the important role the family played in sponsoring and providing youth activities in the area. After Kelly detailed his personal history at Riley’s, Kathy Riley Furst accepted the honor on behalf of her family.

“I bet there’s not one person in the audience over the age of 50 who hasn’t been to Riley’s Fun Spot,” she said. “If you have, please stand up.”

A chilling response followed, as wave after wave, table after table removed themselves from their seats, leaving nearly every chair unoccupied in the banquet room.

The 1955-1960 Wampum High School basketball team was the first to receive the Ellis Hoffman Memorial Team Award. After viewing a video that recognized the accomplishments of the historic team, which included 31-0 record in 1955, former player Ron Galbreath accepted the award for the table of Wampum players in attendance.  


Moments after the last speech was given, the banquet room was clear. A room once packed with anxious energy, laughs and applause minutes earlier was replaced with staff members and Lawrence County Historical Society administrator Anna Mary Mooney. A smile was painted on her face.

“It’s a huge relief,” she said. “The people here at the New Englander are totally cooperative and really made it move along this year. I’m extremely pleased. ”