Mingo teachers, staff to be honored Saturday

MINGO JUNCTION -Seven teachers and staff members who served at schools in the village will be honored at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Mingo Junction American Legion on Commercial Avenue when plaques to affixed at Cherry Blossom Memorial Park.

In 2007, 27 trees were planted at Cherry Blossom Memorial Park, located at the bottom of St. Clair Street, with the first class of 43 inductees being honored in 2008.

The Mingo Junction Business Association started the project to recognize teachers and staff of Mingo High School and Harmony, Hills, St. Agnes and Mingo Central schools.

Jim Freiling of the business association said every spring pupils from Hills Elementary are brought to the park, where its meaning and history are explained. He said the children are encouraged to keep up on the maintenance of the park when they get older.

Freiling said Mingo High School served the village from 1893 to 1993.

“We wanted to preserve the history of the school and the body of work of the teachers, bus drivers and staff for when we are gone,” Freiling said,

Family and friends of those honored this year will be given the opportunity to hang the plaques immediately after Saturday’s event.

There is room for 150 plaques at the park. With the induction on Saturday, 86 plaques will have been placed at the park, Freiling said.

Among those on the list of honorees is Fred Walker.

Chuck Walker, Fred’s son, of Johnstown, Ohio, said his father graduated from Denison University in 1936. He wanted to teach history and coach football and baseball, both sports he played in college.

“He had no prospects for a job, but in mid-summer he got a call from Woody Hayes, who was a good friend and teammate of dad’s at Denison,” Chuck Walker said. “Woody had taught and coached at Mingo Junction the previous year but was leaving to take a similar job at New Philadelphia. Woody told dad to come to Mingo Junction and talk to the principal, John Muth, because they needed a history teacher and football coach.

“Arrangements were made and, since dad had no car, his older brother Howard took him to Mingo Junction for the interview. Dad remembers waving goodbye through the (car) window as Howard drove away, leaving him in a strange town, not knowing a soul and with no place to stay. Mr. Muth hired dad on the spot and located a room in a boarding house so he had a place to ‘hang his hat.’ Dad got a part-time job in the steel mill where he continued to work during the summers until 1942.

“Dad remembers his first experience at taking attendance in class by calling the roll of names. He terribly mispronounced the names, many of which were of Italian, Slovak and Polish derivation. The kids laughed and snickered unmercifully. Dad quickly learned to call out the first names only.”

Fred Walker was an assistant football coach at Mingo High School until 1938, when he became head coach.

Chuck Walker said his father became close friends with shop teacher, Arthur Young, who was tall at 6-4. Young did not coach, but was a big help on game days when he manually changed the scoreboard.

“Art, being tall, could keep the scoreboard up to date without using a ladder,” Chuck Walker said.

“Dad and Art were bachelors the first three years, then they both were married in early August 1939 before football practice started,” Chuck Walker said.

He noted there was a particular game his father told him about in which Mingo Junction won but the visiting stands emptied and the crowd came across the field toward the Mingo Junction team.

“Dad’s team surrounded him in the long-jump pit facing outward, ready to take on anyone who meant to harm him. Before any real fisticuffs broke out, cooler heads prevailed and the losing fans dispersed to lick their wounds among themselves and receive the proper sympathies they thought they deserved,” Chuck Walker said.

He noted several of his players and former players answered the call to duty after World War II broke out.

“Sadly, several of those players were lost in the North African Campaign. Due to a severe football injury to dad’s knee, he was not able to participate in the war,” Chuck Walker said.

Chuck Walker said his brother, Fred, was born in Steubenville in January 1942. He said his father accepted a job that summer with Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Newark. Not long after, his friend, Young, accepted a job with the same company and moved to Newark. Fred Walker worked with the company until 1961. He then joined several former Owens-Corning friends and worked at Contour Forming in Newark until his retirement in 1978.

Chuck Walker said his dad and Young returned for a Mingo High School reunion in the 1980s and “enjoyed sharing stories and memories with the Mingo Junction ‘family’ of yesteryear.”

In fact, it was the wife of a man who Walker coached who nominated him to be included at the Cherry Blossom Memorial Park.

Joanne Sogan said her husband Paul was a teacher and assistant football and basketball coach at Mingo High School from 1954 through 1987. She said her husband became a teacher because of his admiration for Walker.

Joanne Sogan had a problem because she didn’t have a picture of Walker and only knew that he had family living in Johnston. She wrote a letter to that town’s mayor who had it taken to Chuck Walker, who then contacted her.

Arthur Young also will receive a plaque, as will Mary Jo Petrella and Donna Acton.

Petrella was a second-grade teacher at Hills Elementary for 30 years. She was in the process of nominating Acton for a plaque when Petrella died in November. Acton had 28 years of service at Mingo Central School in the 1960s and later at Hills Elementary, also as a second-grade teacher. Petrella and Acton were known for directing the second-graders in the annual Christmas play.

Alberta Herrick will be honored as a teacher at Mingo High School from 1968 through 2003. She was an English teacher and adviser to the National Honor Society and the pep club.

Sandy Morgan-Paris, who will receive a plaque, was a teacher of all subjects from 1977 through 2006 at Hills Elementary and Mingo High School.

Sam DiFabbio Sr. will be honored for being a school bus driver from 1965 through 1980.

A plaque will remember the Central School building that was constructed on the site of the former Franklin School facing Commercial Avenue and housed grades first through 12th. It was destroyed by fire on Dec. 10, 1917. Classes during the next year were held at the Odd Fellows Hall and the basement of the Methodist church.

Anyone wishing to nominate a teacher or staff member can contact Freiling at