By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
What a glorious, wonderful, bittersweet week! West Virginia celebrating a 150th birthday while the Daily Telegraph loses a publisher and friend as a young man from Tazewell begins a professional sports career at historic Bowen Field during the same time frame that his former coach and high school mentor closes a career that had spanned nearly 40 years.
That’s how it often happens in Four Seasons Country — the more things change the more they stay the same. We (at least I do) depend on consistency. Although I was born in Virginia, my wife, Mom, and many of my relatives are Mountaineers by birth. Mercer, McDowell — the whole state, of course, was all Virginia until that fateful third week in June of 1863.
Slavery was a major part of the division because the citizens in the western part of Virginia seldom owned any and did not want to be a part of a slave-holding nation.
There was much more to the division than the problem with one person owning another. Citizens here had long felt disenfranchised from the far-distant planters down near Norfolk, the Tidewater, and the James River basin who controlled so much of the state’s policies. The residents up in the mountains had a limited representation and not much influence in the decision-making process. So, when the chance came to form a government more in line with their interests, they made the choice and left.
At any rate, here is one Virginian who is proud of the Mountain State. From my days at Bluefield State College, working here at the Daily Telegraph, broadcasting with Adventure Radio, and other activities, I, like many of you, have been treated with respect and friendship by a great many West Virginians. So many good-hearted people live in the Mountain State who make a fellow feel welcome and wanted. I don’t know if I can make the bicentennial of West Virginia in 2063 but I do hope that this great state is still alive and prosperous in its 200th year with all of the wonderful spirit we have seen at work this week.
Daily Telegraph publisher Darryl Hudson will be moving on to a new job and as a young man it is true that a fellow often has to take promotions on the career path. He has been a friend to the area. As many local businesses find it increasingly hard to keep the doors open, Mr. Hudson, editor Samantha Perry, and the staff have managed to keep your daily newspaper successful and available “7-24-365” for our loyal and deserving readers.
Darryl and I knew each other a generation ago when he was a Daily Telegraph worker in another department. He was destined even then for higher jobs and moved up through the ranks in the company before returning as the overall leader. The one thing I still don’t understand is how he did not age, while I look 30 years older! Best wishes to Mr. Hudson and now we here in Bluefield await another publisher and look forward to continuing the newspaper tradition started back in 1893.
My “real” job, the one that makes all the others possible has been teaching at Tazewell High School for almost four decades. Preachers often speak of blessings and there is no one more honored than I have been to have been allowed to have a paying position that has provided so much rewarding fun over the years.
So it was this week that Class of 2011 graduate Zak Wasilewski was scheduled to make his pitching debut Friday for the Blue Jays at Bowen Field. Zak graciously said he felt like he was pitching for both Bluefield and Tazewell.
Another Bulldog, Lou Peery of the Class of 1966, gave up the baseball coaching position that he had held every season but one since 1979. Lou is the face of the program, like Bear Bryant or somebody, and no matter what happens in the future, he will be the standard by which all others are judged.
It is very fitting that Lou Peery Field bears his name. Tazewell residents and fans will point out that Lou has spent nearly as much time at the baseball facility than he has at home. That is no reflection on his family. Mrs. Peery (Sandy) is one of the nicest people who ever lived, a long-time librarian at the Main Street Library, and a friend of mine since we were students at Pocahontas High School. Her brothers, Danny and Grant, were buddies of mine years ago and we were all in the same class at PHS.
Lou is a one of a kind, great-player-when-he was-young person who became an outstanding coach and visionary leader who created a wonderful facility in part by the unyielding desire to make the area a better place for children. In addition, he produced (so far) three professional athletes including Billy Wagner, Jack Compton, and Zak Wasilewski.
For those of you old enough to remember, if Coach Peery had had a Lou Peery to push him when he was their age, he would have been a major league player. He was that good. Some of the baseballs he hit are probably still rolling somewhere.
However, if that had happened, then maybe Tazewell would not have the great tradition and the fine field and lots of young men would have missed something special. We all got lucky when Coach Peery decided that coaching was his true calling.
Best wishes to Zak Wasilewski, Darryl Hudson, and Lou Peery on new careers and the same to West Virginia as the 35th state continues on its great story of success!
Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.