Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

September 21, 2013

‘Duke’ and T.J. brought great joy and equal talent to fans of all ages

— — He said that we had to put together a music program. “He” was “Duke” White and the music program was a bluegrass performance for the Pocahontas Lions Club. That was back in 2007 when the Lions group decided to let Duke and I play with their money and  bring some top-notch entertainment to the Pocahontas-Abb’s Valley-Boissevain-Bramwell area for a summer evening.

“Duke” passed away earlier this week and his many friends in the music business and the coal industry mourn the loss of a talented and dedicated worker. He was a firm believer in doing the right thing so there was no question about any project he supported. Working together with Lions president and publicity man John Barbour, we put a package together. The rest of the club, including concessions (a big part of the money!) director Bobby Baker, program workers Frankie Rodriguez and Ken Franklin, devoted helpers Toby Barbour and Russell Synan, along with Arthur Scott and the late McConley “Buck” Byrd, among others, we got it done.

Duke found the talent, guests filled the Pocahontas High School auditorium, and a show was born. For the next six years, every fourth Friday in June was the big day. The great group Bent Hickory, of which “Duke” was a founding member, was always the house band and a wonderful addition. Through Duke, I got to be friends with members Jimmy Martin, Jerry Shinault, and Larry Farthing . I already knew banjo man Tim Jarrett and his wife, Jean, having taught their son, TJ, at Graham High, and later working with them on a great bluegrass show at the old Bluefield, Va., Town Hall. Duke was there that night, as well.

It was so much fun to help decorate the stage and Duke was right in the middle of it all. He couldn’t lift a whole lot and neither could I but the stage always looked great. Russell, Wayne Mullin over at Nemours, and the Bakers always helped out. So did Ken, and Toby, and the Bent Hickory guys. There was a great hospitality room, thanks to the concession team and my daughter, Lori Anne, who was known for bringing special jelly beans to selected performers.

Working with “Duke” was one of the highlights of any year. He was a fine mandolin player and a crowd favorite. He took great pride in himself and the band, always looking for ways to make things better. We spent many hours on the phone and on the road, making contacts and talking about bluegrass music. It was a great education in not only music but public relations.

Mr. Forest M. White may have been called “Duke” but he was the king of local bluegrass music in our neck of the woods.

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Golfers will want to take note of the Saturday, September 28, T.J. Rasnick Memorial Golf Tournament date. In honor of a late and very much lamented student-athlete from Tazewell, the athletic foundation is sponsoring the event at Wolf Creek Golf Course. Most local sports fans at least 20 years of age vividly recall the amazing athletic feats of this THS Hall of Famer.

He scored 100 goals in soccer, was a star basketball player, and only his life-threatening illness took enough time to prevent him from setting the school football rushing record. In addition, T.J. had a 3.8 Grade Point Average for his four years in high school before moving on to secure a scholarship at Emory & Henry College. Sadly, he was not able to complete his career and is no longer physically with his many friends and admirers among the extended Bulldog family.

Brenda Duty at the golf course (276-688-4610) and tourney director Jill Rasnick (276-979-7100) are coordinating the tournament which features a shotgun start at 9 a.m. at Wolf Creek Golf Course. There will be a four-man captain’s choice (no handicaps) with a $60 per person or $240 group registration. Lunch and refreshments are included with longest drive- and closest to the pin-contests, along with a putting contest. Hole sponsorships are $100.

Proceeds for this worthwhile community event will benefit the Tazewell Athletic Foundation, Kids of Childhood Cancer at Wake Forest organization, and a portion will be used to assist with naming the men’s locker room at the new James C. Ramey, Sr. Athletic Training Facility after T.J. where he performed so dramatically at Bulldog Stadium/Witten Field.

Entries may be mailed to the Tazewell Athletic Foundation at P.O. Box 73, North Tazewell, Va., 24630 and any enclosed checks can be made out to the Tazewell Athletic Foundation.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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