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2017…Year In Review

By Staff | Dec 27, 2017

Wetzel County’s Gabriel Project was assisted by St. Vincent de Paul’s Little Flower Society Group in February as the ladies worked together to make 50 blankets for needy area babies. Pictured is Linda Barth, of the Gabriel Project.

It is hard to sum up a year’s worth of news in one article, especially when considering all that happened in Wetzel County during 2017. The year brought tough times, devastation in several forms – a plane crash, a flood Yet, within the lines that read of such pain there can be found rays of hope promising youngsters, doing remarkable things Or, consider the small town of Hundred, affected by the flood, finding hope through an event known as the Flood Release.

Read below for just a small sample of some of the stories that made headlines.


In January the Chronicle brought coverage on the retirement of several special individuals who dedicated their lives to public service. Those folks included courthouse employees Don Mason, Sharon Dulaney, the late John Brookover, Brenda Duke, and Mary Kemp.

In January several city, county, and state leaders gathered to hold a meeting regarding Route 2, New Martinsville blockages by CSX.

Photo Provided It was an unforgettable year for young Huckleberry Henderson, and some motorcycle riders he made a lasting impression on. Huckleberry made headlines in July 2017.

Also in January, the Town of Pine Grove received a 2002 Ford F550 dump truck from Dominion.

Meanwhile, some of of New Martinsville’s finest gathered at Anytime Fitness to participate in a special training. NMVFD firefighters donned their workout clothes for the day to learn about the importance of staying fit.


West Virginia Senator Charles Clements was appointed by Gov. Jim Justice to fill the 2nd District state Senate Seat vacated by Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt.

Wetzel County Math Field Day was held on Feb. 11, while Wetzel County Schools was also applauded for having at least 90 percent attendance and graduation rates for the 2015-2016 school year. Wetzel County Schools was also recognized for its nutrition, as the program was given recognition in School Nutrition Magazine, by the School Nutrition Association.

Kaela Miller attends Hundred's Flood Release in August 2017.

Meanwhile Visit Wetzel County announced its schedule for the Back Home Appalachian Arts & Music Festival.

Wetzel County’s Gabriel Project was assisted by St. Vincent de Paul’s Little Flower Society Group as the ladies worked together to make 50 blankets for needy area babies.

The Wetzel County Child Advocacy Center held an open house in February, and the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce held an annual yearly meeting and gave an annual report of the various ways the organization was able to help the community.


The Wetzel County 4-H/FFA Ham and Bacon Show was held in mid-March, yielding a grand total of $51,789.25. Curtis Tedrow’s grand champion eggs were purchased by Triple E. Services, while Assessor Scott Lemley purchased the grand champion ham, produced by Cheyenne Coen. Bailie Fayad’s grand champion bacon was purchased by Nelson Hachem, New Martinsville McDonalds owner.

Photo Provided Donald Riggenbach was recognized in February for owning the 2017 Family-Owned Small Business of the Year by the Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District.

Local United States Postal Service employee Rick Morris retired after 32 years of postal employment. Morris had stated “As long as you’re getting your work done, there is nothing wrong with smiling while you’re doing it.”

The Wetzel Chronicle had the honor of talking to World War II Veteran Bill Cross. Cross reflected on his life, love, and his hobby.

The winners of the 2017 Wetzel County Schools Social Studies Fair were announced.

Also, the Chronicle spoke with Leslie Elliot, of the Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Elliot had wished to spread hte word on National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, established April 2-8 in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Chronicle shared its first of many articles about missing Gilmer County resident, Melinda “Mendy” Rice, 42-years-old. Rice had last been seen in the Wileyville area.

The Wetzel County Schools excess levy renewal was approved by voters in December 2017.


Area Cub Scouts held Adventure Day in order to give scouts chances to earn extra “belt loops,” awards for achieving certain goals, as well as invite other kids to join the scouts.

The fourth annual Ramp Fest was held in the Shortline community in April 2017. The 2017 event was described as “the best we’ve had.” It was estimated that several hundred were in attendance.

The body of Melinda “Mendy” Rice was found in a creek near Wileyville after an extensive search by first reaponders. Rice was described by loved ones as “a daughter, a sister, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, and so much more to so many people.”

Wetzel County Superintendent Ed Toman announced that students Haley Feldmeier and Aubrey Neff, along with Teacher Leslie Lively, had been chosen as 2017 Student and Teacher Argonauts with JASON Learning. The trio was chosen to explore the rainforest.

Donald Riggenbach was recognized for owning the 2017 Family-Owned Small Business of the Year by the Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District. Riggenbach’s father, in 1956, started the tile and carpet business. Donald Riggenbach’s son, Matthew, also helps run the family business.

Also in late-April, the Wetzel County Board of Education announced the purchase of Hundred’s football field.

The Wetzel County Board of Education honored Rachel Bates, Makayla McDougal, and Jacob Kuhn, 2017 recipients of the Golden Horseshoe.

The dirt track racing community was left shocked when a fire destroyed Irvin Brown Racing’s car shop, located in Jacksonburg. The racing family persevered though, reminding their followers, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


RegattaFest plans were well underway and growing as Sam and Sherron Winer briefed the commission on the event. The duo had noted that they were going to clear Main Street of the event, moving it closer to the river.

Meanwhile the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce held its 2017 Community Celebration Awards. Dan Henthorn received the Educator of the Year Award; Eli Henthorn received the Youth Leadership Award; New Martinsville Police Chief Tim Cecil received the title of Professional of the Year, while Billie Zimmerman won the title of Employee of the Year. Roy Haught received the Entrepreneur award, while Jim King was recognized as Business Owner of the Year. Linda Henricksen, of the Olive Branch Animal Rescue and Refuge was honored as her charity received the title of “Civic Organization of the Year.”

The Wetzel County Board of Education inducted the newest members to its 25 Year Club.

Approximately 75 people gathered in front of the Wetzel County Courthouse for the National Day of Prayer Service.

Hundred FFA and Pine Grove FFA excelled at the National Land Judging Contest. Hundred’s FFA Land Judging Team earned the title of National Reserve Champions, while Pine Grove FFA captured fifth place.


June was a festive month, bringing with it the Vintage Reatta and Wetzel County Relay for Life.

Also, in June, Judge David W. Hummel was named the 2017 Judge of the Year by the West Virginia Association for Justice.

Leslie Lively, teacher at Short Line School, was announced as Wetzel County’s Teacher of the Year.

Local Pastor Rev. Dr. Vic Hunter headed home to Colorado after decades in the ministry.

Meanwhile, the first-ever State of Wetzel County Breakfast yielded a positive turnout, including speakers Mary Jo Guidi (representative for Senator Joe Manchin’s Office), Brian Felici (CEO of Wetzel County Hospital), Larry Lemon (Wetzel County Commission President).

The Community Festival of Trees announced the beneficiaries of its 2017 event – Wetzel County Hope and Memories, Friends of Paden City Pool, and Grow Local Go Local.

New Martinsville City Council renamed River Lane, RegattaFest Way.


The inaugural Back Home Appalachian Arts & Music Festival was a success, featuring several bluegrass music groups and talented artisans.

New Martinsville Council honored law enforcement officers Mike Owens and Jason Utt with the Life Saving Award.

Meanwhile, the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority made headlines as it reached the 1 million pound mark on recycling.

Wetzel County Schools brought relief and happiness to many Wetzel County families as the school system announced it would be giving school supplies to each student for the 2017-108 school year.

Devastation and tragedy struck the county in July as a round of flash flooding hit the county. Hundred, Pine Grove, Smithfield, and Pricetown were all hit by the rain.

Hundred and Littleton areas were hardest hit as numerous businesses and homes were lost, leaving residents wondering how to pick up the pieces. Hundred Volunteer Fire Department’s brand-new building was also destroyed, along with several of its trucks.

Pine Grove was also in the headlines during the summer of 2017. Not only was the town affected by the flood, but its sewage and water systems suffered malfunctions, leading to numerous boil water and conservation orders. Residents also complained about sewage backup. In July, Hurricane WVa.’s Mobile Infrastructure Response Team assisted with sewage system repairs. Furthermore, Mark West personnel assisted town workers with building controllers for sewer pits and aided with work at the town’s water plant. Earlier in the summer Dominion had also purchased a pump for the town’s sewage system.

A ray of hope for July came in the form of young Huckleberry Henderson, who made a lasting impression on some motorcycle riders from New York. Henderson, while shopping at Walmart with his mom, noticed one of the bikers was injured. Henderson’s heartfelt note and tokens of concern, touched the bikers, leading to a Facebook post that went viral.

“This is the nicest thing I’ve ever seen,” rider Chris Robinson said of Henderson’s actions.


Wetzel County’s young and old enjoyed the annual Town & Country Days which crowned Brooklynn McCaslin as queen. Phil Vassar was Saturday night’s entertainment.

Harmony Baptist Church organized a Flood “Release,” held Aug. 26. The event occurred a little less than a month after the devastating floods of July 28-29 and was held at the former state police barracks in Hundred. The event featured bubbles, stilts, music, and most of all – hope.

The Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce held a “Pay It Forward” event in late August. Local organizations gave presentations, and The Necessities Barn was named the first-place beneficiary of the event, yielding $2,100.


September brought tragedy to Wetzel County in the form of a Jacksonburg-area plane crash that killed two individuals. The victims of the crash were Bill and Pat Searcy of Carterville, Ill. The couple’s destination was Fleming-Mason Airport in Flemingsburg, Ky.

September did bring some bright points, as the Chronicle featured a story on Hundred resident Israel VanScyoc, who aided his neighbors in the restoration of Belko grocery store, which was devastated by the Summer 2017 floods in Hundred.

September also brought RegattaFest action and the opening of a Kayak Launch by the county 4-H grounds.


Chili Fest was held the last Saturday in October, in New Martinsville. Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce’s Sharon Thomas reported that the event had 21 chili competitors, with 40 booths setup overall. New Martinsville Volunteeer Fire Department won first place for best chili in the “Non Profit” category, while Azteca Restaurant was honored for having the best chili in the “Restaurant” category.

Also, in October, the Wetzel County Commission approved the placement of a memorial park bench. The bench, in honor of the late Shelby Titus, will be placed on courthouse grounds. Titus died on Oct. 11 from a fatal car accident.

In October, Delegate Dave Pethtel was selected as Wetzel’s Democrat of the Year, while Magnolia student Dexton McKinney was named “Hero of the Year,” by Hoagy’s Heroes, located in Glen Dale. McKinney was honored for his pop tab collection efforts. The recycled tabs raise money to support organizations such as Ronald McDonald House Charities.


Wetzel County Schools honored veterans near and far. Special assemblies were held Nov. 9 throughout the county’s schools.

The Wetzel Chronicle shared a story about a Texas veteran who has been connected to local residents. Robyn Yeager, along with Kim and John Shatney, joined forces to create a special helmet for Anson Curry, who was injured in Afghanistan.

Also in November, Delegate Dave Pethtel was honored in Charleston as being Wetzel County’s Democrat of the Year. Pethtel received tribute from Democrats assembled at the Roosevelt-Kennedy Dinner celebration.

Records were set at the Community Festival of Trees, held Nov. 17 at wetzel County’s Mollohan Center. The event yielded more than $7,000, which was distributed amongst Friends of Paden City Pool, Wetzel County Hope and Memories, and Grow Local Go Local.

Ashlee Lanier was announced as Wetzel County Museum’s new curator. Lanier hails from North Carolina.

Magnolia junior Dexton McKinney was honored by West Virginia Delegate Mike Ferro. McKinney was honored for his can tab collection efforts, which help support sick children.

Meanwhile, the Wetzel County Farm Bureau held a special program at the Pine Grove Sportsman’s Club. The event was held to honor veterans for their service to our country.

The late Mayor Robert Bruce was inducted into the Wetzel County Museum’s Hall of Fame.

County residents spoke out against a proposed City Service Fee by New Martinsville Council. The $1.75 fee would be charged weekly to each non-city resident who works in the city. An exemption would be for non-residents living in the same household.


A Wetzel County school bus was involved in an accident in early December. There were 48 kids on the bus at the time of the accident; however, no one was injured. Two nurses from the school system were on scene following the accident.

In December, the Griffin Players – the combined Thespian Troupes of Magnolia and Paden City High School, presented “Guys and Dolls” at the Magnolia High School Auditorium.

Chief Tim Cecil was honored with the Life Saving Award at New Martinsville Council.

The towns of Pine Grove, New Martinsville, and Hundred each held celebrations in honor of the holiday season.

The Wetzel County Schools excess levy renewal was approved by county voters. The excess levy does not increase tax rates for citizens.