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Steve Novotney Says, "2016 - Surprises and Farewells"

The past 12 months provoke enthusiasm and excitement in many ways, from the unveiling of the renovations and expansion to Wesbanco Arena to the discovery of a storage vault beneath the city's downtown that was once used by the Welty Distribution Co.

That's not mention "Primary Tuesday" in May when local voters cast ballots for a future they believed was more attractive than the alternative.

But it was also a year during which we lost friends who joined us in our extensive sports broadcasting on the Watchdog Network; men who made US better at what we do because of the extensive insight they offered every time they wore those headphones.

Tuesday, May 11, 2016

He gave children balloons, cruised the city on his mountain bike, made himself available for everything from candidate forums to community meetings, and Glenn Elliott pulled off a surprising-to-some victory in his bid for mayor of Wheeling.

And he wasn't the only one.

Chad Thalman proved victorious in Ward 1; Brian Wilson won Ward 3; Wendy Scatterday ran aggressively in the fourth ward and defeated the incumbent, and so did Ty Thorngate in Ward 5; and Dave Palmer, a retired Wheeling firefighter, now represents Ward 6. Only one incumbent gained voter approval, and that was Ken Imer in the second ward, but his margin of victory was six votes.

The majority of the winners communicated well with the residents of Wheeling during their respective campaigns, and their message was to push for even more change and progress than what was realized while Andy McKenzie was the mayor in place, and that has been evident since Elliott presided over his first regular council meeting at the beginning of July. Not only did Wheeling Council vote unanimously to approve an amended non-discrimination ordinance, but a new position was created to address the city's parks and playgrounds, and a part-time grant writer is now being sought.

Some of the issues now under their collective microscope include downtown parking, traffic flow in all areas of the city, the preservation and restoration of a plethora of properties, housing, and the retention of tax-paying citizens, and they are doing so in an all-inclusive fashion that has, thus far, met with the approval of the constituents.

Lost Legends

The year also was full of sorrow and sadness on a worldwide level and very much so on the local level, too, as far as saying goodbye that final time.

While the world of music lost the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Fry, and Merle Haggard, we said goodbye to B.E. Taylor.

Janet Reno was the first-ever female to serves the country as Attorney General and John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, and Ohio County lost a groundbreaking public servant, too, in Kathie Hoffman.

Fans of the sports world sadly said farewell to legends like Muhammad Ali, Pat Summitt, Gordie Howe, and Arnold Palmer, but on Christmas Day our community lost an inspiration in Mark Nardone, and on July 30 we had to say goodbye to Sam Andy.

Since the Miller family founded the Heather Mill Memorial Golf Classic nine years ago, Taylor was there at the start to sing Heather's favorite song, "Here Comes the Sun" just as he did the day of the young lady's funeral. He wasn't there this year, though, and no one seemed to know why. It was known in the community and with his band mates and show crew that he wasn't well, but no one expected the news received on August 7.

Our friend Bill had passed away, and in his honor we sang or hummed his national hit, "Vitamin L," or recalled one or several of his Christmas shows we attended at the Capitol Theatre. This was the first Christmas since 1991 when the show didn't go on, though, but his name still was displayed on the venue's marquee in his honor.

Hoffman won her bid for re-election to Ohio County's Assessor's position and that's because she was a very successful public servant, gaining state recognition and respect from all three of the county's commissioners and her constituents. She began her career as an assistant in the Ohio County Sheriff's Tax Office, decided to run for the position against the incumbent and won in 2008 and was set to run unopposed in the general election in November.

But she fell ill in late June and passed away on July 13, but her daughter, Tiffany, was sworn in as the Assessor after replacing her mother on the ballot and winning in November.

For 11 seasons Nardone was Wheeling Park High's head football coach, and during that stretch he recorded a 76-44 record, never posted a losing season, and his teams qualified for the Class AA postseason seven times. Most importantly, perhaps, he laid the foundation for the next coach, Chris Daugherty, to capture the high school's first-ever state title.

And Mark was there on Wheeling Island watching his son, then a senior linebacker (Nick), play a key role in that 23-15 victory over Capital High although the impacts of "Lou Gehrig's Disease" were limiting his speech and mobility at the time.

That was more than a year ago, and Mark continued to communicate via Facebook and email while the disease rendered him speechless. One his final postings was dated Dec. 20 and read, "Love a quote I heard on TV. … 'A leader without followers is just a man taking a walk.'"

Nardone was not alone, and neither was Andy, a man who coached basketball teams to a total of 611 victories and three state titles. Incredibly, during his 39 years of coaching, only three times did his team finish a regular season with a losing record, and a plethora of his players continued their careers in college. The man would put his Patriots against any other team and his theory was to get the ball up the court quickly because, "If we shot the ball 20 more times than the other team, it was likely with our players we would score more than they would."

Of course, Nardone and Andy had their critics because winners like they were tend to collect those, but both men will be long remembered as difference-making mentors who connected not just with their players but with all students they taught each day of the school year.