Six Join Bath Hall
HOT SPRINGS — The Bath County Athletic Hall of Fame inducted three new members during the sixth inductions over the weekend.
The group included a pair of former Valley High graduates in Johnny Woodzell and Ernie May and Richard Mines Jr., who was in the first graduating class at Bath County High.
The trio was introduced during halftime of the boys basketball game on Friday night and the official induction dinner and ceremony before a crowd of about 70 family and friends was Saturday evening in the BCHS auditorium.
Woodzell, a football and basketball player at Valley from 1946-48, was presented by his high school coach, Paul Siple, of Covington.
"Johnny was a 130-pound guard," recalled Siple, a charter member of the hall. "He took on guys that were much bigger than him and football was his game. He came to play every night and I had him in there all the time on offense and defense. We only had about 16 kids on the team."
Woodzell was honored to have Siple on hand. "Not too many 75-year-old men can have their high school coach present them at something like this," Woodzell said. "I'm very humbled, honored and blessed by the grace of God. I have done nothing on my own and the most important person in my life is Jesus Christ."
Woodzell fondly recalled growing up in Bath County. "The Mitchelltown school was one room and two outhouses," he said. "I had a tremendous desire to play sports and was thrilled to be able to play."
He cited Siple as a determining factor in his career choice. "When Mr. Siple got to Valley High as coach, things started to turn around and we got on a roll. He took me to Bridgewater for the first time and I decided that I wanted to be a biology teacher and coach," he said.
Woodzell enjoyed a great run as teacher and coach at Covington High, where he led the Cougars to a Group A state football championship in 1984. "I had great coaches around me," Woodzell said of his staff, several who were present. "Character really counted with those guys."
He also cited Frankie Neff, his pastor at Life Line Ministries, and teacher/coach/sportswriter Johnny Gazzola as instrumental in his success. Now retired, Woodzell and his wife, Debbie, make their home in Covington.
May, a three-sport athlete and a 1958 graduate of Valley, was presented by his brother, Walker May of Hot Springs.
"Ernie has done a great job," Walker said. "First as an athlete, then a coach and now a successful business man."
May played football, basketball and baseball in high school and football and baseball at Bridgewater College, where he graduated in 1963.
"This is an honor for me to be here," he said. "This is still home. You never get it out of your system."
May recalled his childhood days in Bath. "Rev. Dewitt Helm used to ride around and pick kids up and take them to Sunday school," he said. "That's how I got involved in the Presbyterian church. Martha Lou Herman taught us history and Dorothy Neff challenged us in math. Johnny Gazzola and Jake Cleek helped me too."
May played on a very successful basketball team at Valley, which won a state championship. The team was led by current Champions Tour golfer J.C. Snead.
"My mom died when I was 17 and Sylvia Snead, J.C.'s mom, had me to her house for dinner before every game," he said. "My dad never missed a sporting event and my sister, Virginia, worked to help me through college. My brothers, Walker and Skeeter, supported me too."
May began his coaching career at Valley, where he coached fellow hall of fame members Don Ryder and James McComb to a regular season district basketball title in 1964-65. In 1965, he was a graduate assistant football coach at West Virginia University.
"One of the best things in coaching is to see how your players do after athletics," he said. On that WVU team that May helped coach was current WVU athletic director Eddie Pastilong and current West Virginia governor Joe Manchin.
"Athletics helps you to learn to get along with people," said May. " I owe a lot to Bridgewater College, its president, Phil Stone, and I'm really appreciative of this honor."
May entered the business world in 1975 when he became the president of the George Howe Candy Company, a family business of his wife, Becky. He was inducted in the National Association of Candy Manufacturer's Hall of Fame in 2002. He makes his home in Grove City, Pa.
Mines, a 1971 BCHS grad, was presented by his brother, Air Force Colonel Barry Mines of Dayton, Ohio.
"Rich was a mentor to me," Barry recalled. "He helped me with Little League baseball. He took up running in college and I followed him to VMI."
A three-sport athlete in high school, Mines became an outstanding runner when he got to VMI.
"I'm glad to be back in Bath County," he said. "This is my home and I miss it. I'm honored and truly blessed and had no idea I would ever be here," he said.
Mines also fondly recalled growing up in Bath County. "Some of life's best lessons were learned here," he said. "We grew up in the valley and up in the hollow. One day, Roger (Curly) Harold came by with some cigarettes so I decided to try a smoke. We had an outhouse and my dad was in there. When he smelled the smoke he came running. It was the fastest race that he had ever run and that was the only time I ever smoked," he said.
"I can remember swimming in the Homestead Indoor Pool for 10 cents," he recalled. Football was his favorite sport and he recalled his greatest memory in a game against Franklin, W.Va., when he picked up a fumble on the kickoff team and ran it in for a touchdown.
A home game during the '71 season also sticks in his mind for different reasons. "A truck came rolling down over the hill. It hit two students and killed them," he said. "All l could think about at that moment was my brother, Barry, and that he used to play down in the end zone where the truck came off the hill."
Mines has competed in 52 marathons and ran over 65,000 miles to date, including qualifying for the Boston Marathon five times. "I set a goal of running a marathon in every state," he said. "It may be too late. I've run in 21 and have 29 to go." Many of his marathons have been with his father, Buddy, running alongside.
"I'd just like to thank the committee," he said as he closed his talk by quoting Robert Frost poetry. "It's been God's help and faith that has helped me to run all these miles."
Mines and his wife, Beth, and their two sons, Richard Andrew and Daniel Charles, reside in Macon, Ga., where he is a tenured Professor and Program Director of Environmental Engineering at Mercer University.
The Bath County Athletic Hall of Fame now has 24 members. They include: Sam Snead, J.C. Snead, Mary Jo Durrett Manchester, Neff and Siple, charter class of 1997; James Corbett, LeAnn Bird, Joe Ryder, Jackie Jenkins and Johnny Gazzola, class of 1998; Charles C. Beverage Jr., Aaron F. Law, Mason Cauthorn and Gene "Bugs" Phillips, class of 2000; Mark Fry, Ralph Beard and Pete Haynes, class of 2002; Greg Fry, Richard "Buddy" Mines, James McComb and Don Ryder, class of 2004.
A moment of silence was held in honor of the hall's founder, Johnny Gazzola, who died on Oct. 31, 2005.
Contact us at email@example.com
Copyright 2005 Covington Virginian Inc.