The Parsons High School Alumni Association held its 44th annual banquet on May 27 at the Tucker Valley Elementary School. Several former graduates of PHS were honored that night.
There were four candidates honored posthumously. First was Joseph Gilmore Sr. who was born in 1915 and passed away in 1974. He graduated from PHS in 1934 where he played both football and basketball and was a guard on the 1934 State Championship basketball team. Mr. Gilmore attended Wesleyan College in Buchannon and graduated in 1938. He was in the Navy and served in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Mr. Gilmore was the owner and operator of Gilmore insurance Agency from 1948 until his death. He also represented Tucker County for 8 years in the House of Delegates of the WV Legislature. He taught Sunday School at St. John’s Methodist Church in Parsons for 20 years and was a member of the Izaak Walton league and Pythagoras lodge No 128 AF&AM. Mr. Gilmore’s son Joseph Jr accepted this posthumous award for his father.
The second posthumous award was given to Robert A Felton, born in 1919 and graduated from Parsons High School in 1936. He graduated from Berea College in 1940 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture. He served in the US Navy from 1942 until 1945. He worked with his parents on a dairy farm in Holly Meadows for many years. He was hired as a vocational agriculture teacher at Parsons High School in 1956 and served for many years. While teaching he also actively farmed his land in Holly Meadows and raised cattle and hogs, as well as hay and corn silage to feed them in the winter. He raised all kinds of vegetables and fruits in his garden every year. In 1972 he became the Director of Vocational Education at the Vocational Education Center on the mountain. He was an active participant in community organizations and was involved in Democratic politics in Tucker County. He also was the acting Tax Assessor in Tucker County from 1954 to 1956. He was an avid bowler and enjoyed swimming and canoeing on Cheat River. He raised eight children, Jeff, Julia, Tom, John, Mark, Andrea, Sue Ellen and stepson Terry Simmons. His award was accepted by his son Tom Felton.
The third posthumous award went to Harold Hershberger who graduated from Parsons High School in 1942. Harold lived with his family at Red Run. After his graduation, he enrolled in WVU and majored in engineering. He was drafted into the Army and fought in Europe during World War II. Harold was involved in the Normandy Mission on D-Day 6 and earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone. He spent 21 years in the US Army and fought in the Korean Conflict and Saigon, Vietnam. He had assignments in Japan, England and Germany as well as many posts in the U.S. After retirement from the Army he taught Military Science at a high school in Ashland Kentucky. He was a volunteer at a local hospital, a member of the Elks, a Past Exulted Ruler and a member of Mason El Hasa Shrine in the Order of Jesters. He was married to Betty Miller Hershberger, class of 1946. They had three children, five grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Harold’s award was accepted by his son John Hershberger from Chicago, IL and his daughter Anne Hershberger Nestor.
The final posthumous candidate was Cleta Mae Cross Long from the class of 1966. She was married to Norman Long and had one son, Dennis Norman Long. Cleta held many jobs in her young years, but mostly she was a poet and historian. She loved to write about people and events in Tucker County and has had many of them published in the Advocate. Cleta had a hard life and found escape in writing poems. She was honored by the Augusta Heritage Center as a Folk Poet and was named Poet Laureate of Tucker County. She published several books including the History of Tucker County. In 1985, Cleta lost her home to the devastating flood of Tucker County. She and her husband spent a long night huddled in the rain under a fodder shock on the mountainside, while the flood destroyed their home below. In verse, Cleta tells of that night and of her long struggle to rebuild her faith in life and God. She became a voice for hundreds of disaster victims who drew encouragement and comfort from her poems. Cleta passed away in July of 2000. Her award was accepted by a friend, Joanne Carr.
The next three candidates were present to accept their awards. First was Juanita Hershberger Leese who graduated from PHS in 1945. She attended Potomac State College until her marriage. She worked as an aide in the Emergency Room of Sacred Heart Hospital for three years and was advanced to a surgical technician for the next fourteen years until her retirement. She is an active member of her church and serves on the Bereavement and Visitation committees. She is an active member of the McKinley Chapter #12, Order of the Eastern Star, and has served as Worthy Matron for three different terms. She was appointed as the Grand Representative of the Grand Chapter of MD, WV for one year and to Wisconsin for one year. She also is an active member of the Blackwater Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She has been a member of the Old Furnace Community Educational Outreach Service since 2011 and in 2014 was given the honor of serving as the “Mineral County Belle.” She also is a member of the Daughters of the Nile. Juanita was very honored to be in the Hall of Fame.
Our second candidate was Mary Frances Long Dyer. Mary graduated with the PHS class of 1957 and then attended St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Clarksburg, WV. She experienced a profound ‘Lordship of Christ over her life” during nursing school and after one year of nursing training, Mary received a calling to join the Sisters of St. Joseph as a nun in 1958 and remained with them for 11 years. She became a registered nurse in 1962. She went on to St. Louis University to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. She attended Columbia University in NYC in the Master’s Degree program for Healthcare Administration. There she met a fellow student whom she married in 1969 and has been married for 48 years. She served as Director of Nursing In-service Education at the Methodist Hospital of Brooklyn in 1970. She then moved to Beckley, WV where she served as Director of Nursing In-service Education at Appalachian Regional Hospital. They adopted a daughter, which was the first biracial adoption in the State of WV in 1971 and after moving to Everett, Washington in 1972 adopted their second daughter from WV in 1973. Mary and her husband joined World Vision International in 1974. They were sent to Saigon, Vietnam in 1974 and evacuated with 2 suit cases two weeks before the fall of Saigon and the end of the war in 1975. She was sent to Puli, Taiwan and served as a nursing, pharmacy, central stores consultant in a renovation project of Puli Christian Hospital and Children’s Polio and Tuberculosis Sanitarium in 1976. She then went to Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, Thailand and served as nursing recruiter/instructor for 40 Hmong refugee men to staff a newly built refugee Hospital in 1978. She was sent to Alameda Refugee Camp, Ethiopia and served as nurse professional for a Family and Children Feeding Program during the Ethiopia famine of 1984. When not on an assignment for World Vision she served as a home visitation Hospice nurse, received her Oncology Nurse certification and served as Oncology nurse for Radiation Oncologist at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. She moved to Dayton, OH in 1986 and again served as a home visitation Hospice nurse and as a home health aide trainer. She also served as the sole resident nurse for a convent of 150 retired aging nuns. With her husband she created Growth in Marriage ministries for the presentation of marriage enrichment seminars, helping churches start up marriage ministries. She moved back to Claremont, CA in 1992 and served as Patient Care Coordinator at a new Cancer Care Center associated with the same Radiation Oncologist as before. She has developed her own extensive knowledge based on nutrition, holistic health, and women’s hormones in order to provide seminars and individual consultations and training on women’s health. She serves on the Board of Directors and is Chairperson of the Health Committee of Mt. San Antonio Gardens, a large continuing care community retirement facility. She is now in the beginning stages of writing an autobiography of her life. Mary was very deserving candidate.
Our last candidate was Dr. Patrick Nestor who was a member of the PHS class of 1967. After graduation, Pat attended Potomac State College and was awarded an AA Degree in Education. He went on to WVU and earned a BS Degree and then his Master’s Degree and then a Doctorate Degree in 1999. Pat has taught school in Grant and Gilmer counties and worked for WVU Extension as a 4-H Agent in Tucker and Gilmer counties and retired after 34 years of service. He started the Strong Mountaineer Program in Boone, McDowell and Wyoming counties which afforded three students from each county the opportunity to attend WVU on a full scholarship and then they returned to their counties and helped with the youth programs. Pat also was an Extension Specialist in Leadership and traveled across the state training 4-H leaders in the rules and regulations of the 4-H programs. Since his retirement he demonstrates how to make rope at the local elementary schools twice a year and also to the Boy Scouts. He also teaches children how to make candles the way they did in colonial times. Pat is vice president of the Gilmer County Farm Bureau and is on the Board of Directors for Region 5 of the WV Farm Bureau. He is a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias. Pat and his wife Ann Hershberger Nestor are the parents of two children Paul and Andrea, and have three grandchildren. Pat and Ann work a 66 acre farm and raise beef cattle. All of the candidates were very deserving of this honor.