Unsung heroes honored at chamber event

Wanda English Burnett

“It’s an honor to get an award for something we love to do,” Henry and Jerry Walker noted as they accepted an award for their dedication to sports at Milan.

The couple was among others named as “unsung heroes” for their dedication to local school sports at the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce’s 17th Annual meeting held October 22 at the South Ripley Elementary School Cafeteria.

The tables were decorated with four balloons each, displaying colors depicting area schools. Chamber President Barry Lauber welcomed the crowd and introduced Matt Low from South Ripley who honored those gathered with his clear rendition of the National Anthem. This was followed by Milan High School Principal Rich Healy leading the Pledge of Allegiance. The theme of the event surrounded local high school sports and the “unsung heroes” who are involved in various aspects of sports at each school.

The Walkers have attended almost every sporting event at Milan where there are 19 to choose from. They were hailed as “two of Milan High School’s most dedicated fans.”

“The Walkers have impacted many people in the Milan community, acting out of love,” Cathy May, chamber representative, noted as she introduced the couple who have been going to sporting events at Milan for 57 years of their 60 years of marriage.

Troy Mohr accepted the award after being nominated to represent South Ripley. Mohr has taught at South Ripley for 20 years where he has tutored many students - on his own time - and been involved in coaching track and cross country. In his modest fashion, he recognized his family in the audience and then thanked mentors John Kalb and Sam Durham, unwilling to take the award solely for himself.

Eric Wirth, a senior at Jac-Cen-Del was chosen as the “unsung hero” for helping the athletic director “any way he can.” He was described as a good student with a good attitude. He also gave the invocation before the meal at the beginning of the meeting.

Bertha Hazelwood received the award for her dedication to the Batesville Bulldogs. May introduced her saying, “she is a true Bulldog through and through, who bleeds Bulldog blue.”

Hazelwood thanked everyone involved in nominating her and said “a lot goes on that people don’t see.” She is known as being ready and willing to help in all aspects of the athletic programs at Batesville.

“I’m proud to be here tonight,” John Popovich, sports director for Channel 9 WCPO TV in Cincinnati and keynote speaker for the event.

Popovich, who lives in Dearborn County, said he is very familiar with Ripley County as he and his wife enjoy dining at the Osgood Grub Co. for their famous chicken and Ertel’s Winery. He said they find the Tyson United Methodist Church to be one of the most beautiful and unusual.

Popovich noted that he has covered stories from the area about Jason McKittrick of Holton - a world class archer - and the recent Jac-Cen-Del State Championship, to which the crowd cheered.

He said already this year the TV station has covered some great football plays at Milan and of course, who could forget the Milan Miracle of 1954?

Popovich said he wanted to play sports when he was young, but soon learned his short stature wouldn’t work for basketball. He had another story about baseball. He said he had a bad game and told his mother he wasn’t seeing very well. The second grader went to the eye doctor, who confirmed he was having some trouble - with his weak swing, but his eyes were fine.

The crowd enjoyed the humor of Popovich telling his story of getting to where he has been the past 30 years at Channel 9.

He’s covered major league sports, the Reds, Bengals, and the Super Bowl. But, Popovich says he really enjoys high school sports, which he described the players as giving forth great effort, great enthusiasm, and an honest performance.

He talked about team building and encouraged the business owners gathered at the event to continue to support local teams.

Popovich has won numerous Emmy and other broadcasting awards for his outstanding writing, producing and reporting over the years. He said through it all, he truly enjoys hometown sports and was honored to be a part of the evening.

The Ripley County Chamber of Commerce is a strong advocate for local businesses.

Officers include President Barry Lauber, Vice-President, Linda Chandler, Secretary, Gerry Nordmeyer, and Treasurer Bonnie Jeffries.

Board of Directors approved for 2010-2012 were: Linda Chandler, Mary Ann McCoy, Rick Gilland and Wilbur Myers.

Unsung Heroes - those behind the scenes at area high school events, were honored at the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce's Annual meeting, held October 22. Guest speaker for the evening, John Popovich, news director for WCPO TV Channel 9, says he enjoys reporting on high school sports as he gave the keynote speech for the evening. Pictured are: Bertha Hazelwood, Batesville; Henry and Jerry Walker, Milan; Popovich, Eric Wirth, Jac-Cen-Del, and Troy Mohr, South Ripley.