Chester set to induct four into hall of fame

CHESTER – Two teachers, a police chief and a mayor constitute the 2013 class of the Chester Hall of Fame.

They will be inducted – one of them posthumously – during a ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday at First Christian Church, 330 Indiana Ave.

The inductees are Mayor Ken Morris, Police Chief Ken Thorn, retired teacher Don Hood and the late Sara Thomas.

“These four inductees have touched the lives of many area people,” said Jerry Smith, chairman of the Chester Hall of Fame Committee. “All of them have made significant contributions to Chester’s history.”

The 2013 inductees will join 21 other members of the Hall of Fame, whose founding dates back to the city’s 2007 centennial celebration. Every year since then, except 2012, the committee has selected four or five Chester residents – past or present – as being worthy of Hall of Fame membership.

The inductees are selected from nominations that are submitted by city residents.

Susan Badgley Hineman, herself a Hall of Fame member from 2011, nominated Morris because of his work as mayor. “Kenny has striven to keep the needs of Chester citizens a priority during his time serving as mayor,” she said. “He has always taken pride in the accomplishments of the city.”

Morris, 56, first was elected mayor in 1992 as a write-in candidate, defeating fellow Republican Roy Cashdollar. “I remember going around town with my daughters, passing out flyers and talking to people,” Morris said.

A service technician with Resco Products Inc., Morris said he got involved in local politics after seeing things in Chester, his hometown, that he believed could be improved. He served on City Council for two years, then ran for mayor.

Morris has served as mayor from 1992 to 1996 and from 2000 to the present. His current four-year term expires in June. Morris will be the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s ceremony.

The Hall of Fame Committee cited Morris’ contributions to city beautification, street and alley improvements, park upgrades and economic development as the highlights of his record as mayor.

Chester Municipal Court Clerk Elaine Hyatt said she nominated Thorn because of his unsung efforts on behalf of Chester residents, especially children. “You’ll hear him say, ‘These are my kids,’ ” she said.

Thorn, 52, has been with the police department for 24 years, 18 of those as chief. “I just felt that after almost 25 years of service to the city … that he’s deserving of it,” Hyatt said. “He’s all about Chester.”

Hyatt described Thorn as a selfless, honest person who can relate to people of all ages and who can defuse a tense situation in minutes. “He always has time to talk to people, from the simplest question to the toughest question,” she said.

The Hall of Fame Committee cited Thorn for routinely putting his “life on the line so that the rest of us may live safe, comfortable lives here in the city.”

While Hood’s background includes service as a city councilman and a city clerk, his life is most distinguished by his years of working as a teacher at Oak Glen High School, the committee citation said.

Hood, 87, was one of six children born to Fred and Nina Hood in Holliday Cove. His family moved from the New Cumberland area to Chester, where he attended grade schools and high school, the committee said.

While a student at Chester High School, Hood played on the only football team to be untied, undefeated and not scored upon. After graduating in 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a tailgunner on a B-29 airplane during the waning days of World War II.

Hood returned from military service to attend West Liberty State College (now West Liberty University), from where he graduated with degrees in mathematics, social studies and physical education, the committee said.

He met his future wife, Wanda Ramsay, and on June 3, they celebrated 65 years of marriage.

Hood taught for a year at Weir High School, then went to work at Crucible Steel and Weirton Steel. He returned to teaching in 1967 at Oak Glen High School, where he stayed as a math teacher until his retirement in 1988.

Since then, Hood has been active at his church, Westminster Presbyterian Church and with the Chester Lions Club, with whom he has more than 50 years of service. He recently was honored with the Leonard Jarrett Award by the West Virginia Lions.

The Hall of Fame Committee cited Hood for contributions to Chester that “truly set him apart as a man of extraordinary character.”

Thomas is remembered as a teacher who always put her students – not her career – first. “She probably was one of the most dedicated teachers I’ve ever met. Her life was teaching,” said longtime Chester resident Virginia Conklin, 89. “She was interested in each student as a person and treated all her students very fairly.”

Conklin can claim Thomas as both a former teacher and a former colleague. “I had her as an English teacher at Chester High School, and then I later taught with her at Oak Glen High School,” she said.

Thomas taught continuously in Hancock County for 43 years-from 1930 to 1973.

Conklin said Thomas went above and beyond her duties as a teacher and became a mother figure to many students. According to the committee citation, “Ms. Thomas was known to personally provide essential items for many students who were unable to afford them.”

At her retirement, Thomas was praised by Oak Glen Principal R.M. McFarland and Cashdollar, then superintendent of Beaver Local Schools.

Thomas died Jan. 3, 1996.

Wednesday’s ceremony is free and open to the public and will be followed by a time of fellowship in the church fellowship hall.