CHESTER - In a night of homage and humor, the Chester Hall of Fame welcomed a sitting mayor and police chief and two former teachers as its newest members Wednesday night.
Chester Mayor Ken Morris, one of the 2013 inductees, joked that the Hall of Fame committee was "going green" by recycling him as the keynote speaker - something he had done once before.
But Morris, 56, also got choked up as he reflected on his 18 years as mayor, thanked his family, friends and supporters, and recounted the deeds of past Hall of Fame inductees.
Retired teacher Don Hood and his wife, Wanda, address well-wishers during Wednesday night’s Chester Hall of Fame induction ceremony at First Christian Church. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
"I believe we have a community full of people who are making a difference," Morris said. "I am very honored and humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame."
That sentiment was echoed by the two other living inductees - police Chief Ken Thorn, 52, and retired teacher Don Hood, 87 - and the family members of former teacher Sara Thomas, who was inducted posthumously.
They join 11 veterans, six teachers/educators, three chiefs of police, three mayors, six city councilmen/clerks, a fire chief and two lawyers who are among the Hall of Fame's members.
Morris praised past inductees who "chose to take a part of their life - big or small - and give it back to this community."
The 2013 inductees were nominated by Chester residents who felt they were worthy of inclusion in the Hall of Fame, said committee member Anthony Bernardi, master of ceremonies on Wednesday. The 12-member Hall of Fame committee solicits nominations and then votes on them.
Wednesday's ceremony was held at First Christian Church, 330 Indiana Ave., which was filled nearly to capacity with friends, family and well-wishers. The Rev. Stacy Popejoy gave the invocation.
Morris, a 1974 graduate of Oak Glen High School, used his remarks to pay tribute to the 21 previous inductees - including city fathers Charles A. Smith and James McDonald, former Mayor Roy Cashdollar, longtime fire Chief John Hissam, Dr. David S. Pugh, community booster Susan Badgley Hineman, businessman Don Chaney, current Councilmen Mike Dotson and John "Woody" Woodruff, and police Chief Floyd "Doc" Lyons.
Morris said he appointed Thorn as police chief during his first term as mayor in 1994 and was honored to be inducted with him. "I can't think of anyone more deserving," he said.
Thorn, who said he is "flirting" with the idea of retirement, returned the thanks and summed up his years as chief: "I have always considered the children of Chester as mine. My goal is to protect them to the best of my ability," he said.
Hood accepted his award with his wife of 65 years, Wanda, who said, "He's the best husband and father anyone could have."
"God has treated me very well," Hood said.
A World War II veteran, Hood worked at Crucible Steel and Weirton Steel before taking a teaching job at Oak Glen High School in 1967. He taught there until his retirement in 1988.
Since then, he has been active with his church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and as a longtime member of the Chester Lions Club.
Family members who accepted the award for Thomas described her as a mother figure who went above and beyond her duties as a teacher at Chester High School and Oak Glen.
"She would take (students) to games, to movies, to wherever they needed to go," one of them said.