The Weirton community has lost a very special person.
When Bob Rossell died of cancer Saturday, a man who was THE authority on Weir High sports history, who was involved in many community activities and who devoted a good portion of his life to helping others, it left a void that can't be filled. At least not in the way that he did it.
Most know Bob as the public address voice of his beloved Weir High Red Rider football and basketball teams. Perhaps many weren't acquainted with Bob, but during the past 44 years knew him by his sweet baritone voice.
He became the PA announcer at Jimmy Carey Stadium when Harry (Bud) Lewis stepped away from the microphone in the mid-1960s. He said that the school was in need of someone and, through his involvement with the Red Rider Boosters Club, he was familiar the job, even though he had never done anything like that before. Like he did in so many other things, Bob quickly became an icon for Weir High football fans.
Before that, he was deeply involved with the Red Riders as a 1952 graduate, fan and with the boosters club. He was president of the club in 1968.
While many know Bob as the ultimate Red Rider, few know that he has been active in such community activities as Junior Achievement, the Weirton Lions Club and Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Club, along with several Ohio Valley Hall of Fame committees.
I first met Bob in 1966 when I was named sports editor of The Weirton Daily Times. I held that position from January 1966 to May 1967. During that time I quickly learned that if you wanted to know anything about Weir High sports teams and athletes, Bob Rossell was the person to contact.
Bob was manager of customer service at Weirton Steel. Customer service was the perfect job for a guy with his knack of knowing what to say at the right moment. I left the newspapers in 1967 to work in the Weirton Steel Public Relations Department as editor of the Employees Bulletin. Through the years I had the pleasure of talking to Bob when I needed information about a certain product or customer and then assisting him as he meticulously gathered information and photographs of past Weir High teams.
That passion began when he came up with the idea of the Weir High Wall of Fame. There was this big empty lobby as you entered the Carl R. Hamill Fieldhouse and Bob had an idea to create what now is almost a sports museum. That was his baby and he was the perfect person to put it together. When you walk into the fieldhouse on the Weir High campus, you quickly realize that the school's sports history runs deep.
He not only researched and placed plaques and pictures of Weir High football and basketball legends, but his dream was to give recognition to any male or female athlete who earned a state championship or received all-state recognition. He developed that dream into a reality so that it has become the envy of many other high schools.
It was in 1969, when I was program manager of Weirton Junior Achievement, that I really got to know Bob Rossell. He volunteered to become a JA adviser, working with teens from all four of the local high schools teaching them about business.
Like he did with everything, Bob immersed himself in the Junior Achievement program. As in sports, there was keen competition between the eight Junior Achievement companies for individual and company awards. More often than not, the teens in the companies that Bob advised were top contenders for those awards.
Later, Bob was an important member of the Junior Achievement board of directors and helped to guide the program through the 1980s.
Then when I retired from Weirton Steel in 1994 and began my second career with The Weirton Daily Times sports department, Bob and I renewed our mutual love of sports.
While the Jimmy Carey Stadium press box is divided into booths so that we were separated, we still got to meet and talk about the games each Friday.
Without a doubt, naming the press box at the new Jimmy Carey Stadium the Bob Rossell Press Box is the ultimate tribute that Weir High good give to Bob. And it was so grand that he was able to attend the final game at the old Jimmy Carey Stadium and be there at halftime when principal Dan Enich showed the sign and announced that the new press box will be named for Bob.
It was at the Weir High boys and girls basketball games that Bob and I really got together. We sat next to each other at the scorer's table at the games for the past 15 years.
That's where I really got to see and understand why he was so good with the microphone and why people loved to hear him. He left no stone unturned in his quest for perfection.
Before the games began, he cruised up and down the sideline talking to the coaches, making sure he was pronouncing the names properly and obviously taking great pride in doing his job to the best of his ability.
During basketball games, we had a chance to talk a lot, not just about sports, but about whatever might be going on in the community or even our personal lives.
One of the things we both enjoyed was second-guessing the coaches-both the Weir High coaches and the visitors. We'd often talk about what we would do in certain situations if we were the coach.
A joke that we had between us and often used when we got to talking was that we, sitting there on the sidelines, never lost a game. We had a perfect record. Monday morning quarterbacks and coaches in the stands never loose a game.
I don't believe that through his life Bob ever lost a game. Oh, he was on the losing end of the score a lot of times throughout his coaching of the general office team in the Weirton Steel League and his teams in the Millsop Community Center Oldtimers' League and the pickup softball and basketball games that he so loved to play, but those who knew Bob knew that as he urged Weir High athletes to do their utmost, he gave all he had, too.
I'll miss Bob Rossell terribly when I sit down at the scorers table for the first Weir High home game this year, and just for the fun of it, I'll try to keep up our record of never losing a game.