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Steve Novotney Says, "Some Contacts Are Memorials"

I just leave them in there.

All of us have had someone in our lives pass away, and yes, the entire process is a gut-wrenching one that never fails to provoke a deep sorrow inside.

But for me the funeral is not the final goodbye. In fact, there never is one, and that's because I've refused to delete the contact information in my cell phone.

Why not?

Simple.

Since I often peruse my digital rolodex when considering topics for the radio show, I frequently see their names, and that allows me to think about them.

Ron Ault was an East Ohio resident before his death in February 2014 at the age of 60. He and I became friends because he listened to me as I spoke about my son's service in the United States Army. Ron's son, Jesse, did, too, but in April 2008 he was killed in action in Iraq. He and I used to talk about Jesse, and I also helped with his efforts to have a stretch of Interstate 70 in Belmont County named in Jesse's memory. Knowing Ron helped me realize just how lucky my family is because my son came home safely from three tours in the Middle East, and every time I see his name, it makes me appreciate the gift he gave even more.

Bob Kelly was the best editor I've ever worked for in the journalism business and that's because he took the time to sit me down and educate me while going through my stories for the Wheeling newspapers during the early 1990s. I would attempt to debate him on the changes and try to explain why I composed it a certain way, but then he would alter it, and the article always was improved.

Anthony Riley was a talented man. He was featured during the "C.A. House Music Live & Local Hour" several times. He was a busker from Philly and came here because he met Robby Parsons and wanted to reinvent. He had demons like most of us do, and with Anthony, the demons may have won, but it will not erase my recollections of his fearless talent. He was not afraid of music.

Mark Nardone never left me hanging. I could have been at TJ's Sports Garden or at Undo's in Benwood or in the studio, and my friend Mark didn't let me down.

Mark became a high school football analyst for the Watchdog Network soon after he resigned as Wheeling Park High's football coach in 2008, and following those broadcasts he would find me to contribute the postgame scoreboard show.

His insight was incredible. He taught me about football, and I thought I knew the sport. Mark Nardone, and I use both his first and surname because he deserves it so, made an impact on thousands of lives on and off the football field.

Including mine.

George Kellas was ESPN in this Valley before ESPN existed.

And he gave it to the Upper Ohio Valley.

Kellas was taken away from his wife and children on Feb. 19, 2009, but not before he offered his hometown honest reporting, unique perspectives concerning news and sports, and a style unlike any other. Let's not forget about the Ohio Valley Greyhounds, his semi-pro indoor football team that was wildly successful until the franchise was sold to a new owner.

George also played a major role with bringing this valley The Watchdog, AM 1600 WKKX, perhaps the only community radio station that features six local hosts who discuss the topics and issues most important to the folks of this valley. For many years, George paced the TV ratings with his sports coverage, and once he expanded his subject matter for all-topics talk radio, he continued to attract more listeners than anyone else.

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I guess my practice can be compared to the Wreaths Across America project, an annual event that involves thousands of volunteers that visit national cemeteries across the country to place wreaths on graves at Christmas time. Those folks read the stones, too, so, once again, the names of American heroes are spoken and not forgotten.

I do the same for similar reasons with my cell contacts because when I see their names, it reminds me how they were part of the solution and far from part of the problem. Maybe everyone should do the same.

Categories: Commentary