• Bob Valch, Woodford Sun Staff

Class of 2019 inducted into Woodford Schools Hall of Fame

The Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame inducted its eighth class, including a group of volunteers recognized for making Community Stadium a reality, Saturday, Sept. 7, at Woodford County Middle School. Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins told those attending that he continues to be amazed by the people who are welcomed into the Hall of Fame each year. “There is something special about being recognized by your alma mater, and that is happening tonight,” he said. “…Woodford County Public Schools would not be what we are today without you.” The Class of 2019 included the “Voice of Woodford County” Mack Calvert, play-by-play announcer for local high school football and basketball for more than three decades and the first sports reporter for The Woodford Sun, where he worked for 15 years. “Mack was a very humble, humble man, and he would be flabbergasted right now to even know that he would be nominated for this,” said wife Sheila, who accepted Calvert’s Hall of Fame plaque on his behalf. The father of four died in 2017. Calvert prepared a binder filled with stats, scouting reports and school records for every Woodford County High School game. “What I know,” said Sheila, “is I have piles and piles and piles of stats … He had a memory like a hawk. I don’t know how he did it. “… He could remember anything, everything – numbers, players.” Calvert later earned a master’s degree in education and taught social studies for a total of 21 years at Southside Elementary and Woodford County Middle schools. It was an opportunity for him to help empower kids, explained Sheila. “He actually made home visits,” she added, to encourage parents to support their children’s education. Honored for distinguished academic achievements were two Woodford County High School graduates who both earned doctorate degrees. Sarah Howard Borders (2005) is an OB-GYN physician in Lexington, and Marianne Lodmell Young (2000) is director of academic and career advising at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Borders graduated from the UK School of Medicine and completed her residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals before returning to Central Kentucky to practice medicine. She has brought more than 1,000 babies into the world, and says she knew from childhood that she wanted to be a doctor. She credit WCHS teacher Faye Daniel’s medical sciences classes for cementing her plans to become a physician. “I hold Woodford County near and dear to my heart, so it really means a lot to me,” said Borders of her induction into the Hall of Fame. Young was class valedictorian at WCHS and graduated summa cum laude at Transylvania University, where she earned a master’s. She earned an educational specialist degree in counseling psychology and later doctorate degree in educational administration and policy at UK. Young has been working at UK since 2009, where she was assistant dean for student services and success at the Gatton College of Business and Economics. “It’s really nice just to be home,” said Young, who moved back to Versailles in April so she could raise her children here. She called it good to see people who supported her and other students so they could become the best that they could be. “It’s really nice just to recognize the accomplishments that have come out of Woodford County,” she said. Three-time All-State golfer Joseph Barr, a 2008 graduate of WCHS, and All-State basketball player Larry Blackford, a 1973 graduate of WCHS, were inducted into the Hall of Fame for extraordinary athletic achievements. Barr began playing golf in the seventh grade at WCHS and recorded 100 golf tournament wins. He was named to the high school All-State Team in 2005, 2006 and 2007 before earning a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, where he was a four-year letterman. “My teachers and coaches were all very helpful in seeing that I was given the opportunities of chasing my golf pursuits …” said Barr, who also played professionally. Blackford earned All-Region and All-State honors while playing basketball at WCHS. He averaged 20 points a game as a senior and later played under legendary Coach Don Lane at Transylvania University, where he was co-captain and led the team in scoring and rebounding. “It means a lot to me to be recognized for what I was able to achieve … in athletics,” said Blackford. “I wish my son (Larry Blackford Jr., who died December 2017) was here to witness this because he was always my greatest supporter …” After playing basketball, Blackford was a coach and minister, and last November became the first African-American elected to the Woodford County Fiscal Court. Blackford credits life lessons that he experienced in athletics for helping him become successful in other endeavors by showing him the value of teamwork. Inducted into the Hall of Fame for career achievement were WCHS 1970 graduate Gary Jones, who was instrumental in building and upgrading local Woodford County Parks and Recreation fields and facilities, and Rusty Thompson (WCHS Class of 1978), a leader in both state and local agricultural for more than 40 years. Jones, who died in 2017, served his community as a coach, city council member and in other capacities, but is most remembered for helping countless kids become active in sports and other recreational programs as director of the Woodford County Parks and Recreation Department. His legacy also includes upgrading sports fields and playgrounds, and playing a key role in the construction of the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center. Taylor Jones, who accepted his dad’s Hall of Fame plaque during Saturday’s induction ceremony, said whenever he comes home someone will recognize him and want to talk about his dad. “It just shows the legacy of Gary Jones,” said Taylor Jones. “He put his heart, his soul … into Woodford County. It’s sad that he wasn’t here to accept (his plaque) …, but I don’t think anybody thinks about Woodford County without thinking about a select group of people, and luckily my dad’s one of them.” Thompson’s lifetime of agriculture leadership began as a student at WCHS, where he was a four-year officer in the FFA as well as serving as Bluegrass Region president and being Chapter Star Farmer in 1978. After he earned a degree in production agriculture at UK, Thompson served his county and the state in 22 ag-related organizations including the Woodford County Farm Bureau, serving on its board of directors for 37 years. “Very proud,” said Thompson when asked about being the first farmer elected into the Woodford County Schools Hall of Fame. “The rest of the farming community is very proud that agriculture is finally being recognized ...” He described farming as “exponentially the driving force of this county. Industry’s great, but agriculture’s here every day ... We’re the caretaker of God’s greatest resource.” His son, Travis, is the fifth generation in his family to farm land on Tyrone Pike. Thompson said he’s hopeful his induction will lead to other farmers joining him in the Hall of Fame “because there are some very deserving male and female farmers out there in the county – very deserving.” Inducted into the Woodford Schools Hall of Fame – as patrons for advancing the school district through their leadership – were longtime Woodford County Board of Education members Margie Cleveland (WCHS Class of 1976) and Ambrose Wilson IV. During Cleveland’s 24 years on the school board, Woodford County Public Schools secured its spot as a Top 5 school district and helped oversee the construction of a new middle school and preschool as well as major renovations of WCHS, and Simmons and Huntertown elementary schools. “I grew up very proud of all the service that she’s done for the community,” said daughter Megan Cleveland. “She’s always been very involved. She kind of always made us (her three daughters and son) very involved. But we’re very proud of her service.” The best part of Saturday night’s induction ceremony for their mom was having all of them in Woodford County. “… Mom would always be there for us, so of course we’re going to be there for her big day,” said Megan Cleveland. Wilson, now in his 27th year on the school board, was a part of many remarkable accomplishments and held leadership positions in state organizations. However, his most lasting legacy was helping ensure Northside Elementary School was built in Midway so his hometown was not left without a school. “The Northside project … was the pinnacle of my school board service,” said Wilson, who’s still serving as board chair. “It was something that was important to me. It was important to my children, the community of Midway. And I’m so happy that we were able to be successful” in keeping an elementary school in Midway. Wilson said it’s always nice to be recognized for your service. “I consider it a compliment, and I was greatly touched by it,” he added. For their extraordinary achievements in public service, WCHS 1978 grad Cheryl Dabney Duncan, an acclaimed family and community advocate, and longtime Woodford County property valuation administrator Jim Owen Gaines (Class of 1944 Versailles High School) were welcomed into the Hall of Fame.

Duncan’s life changed forever when her sister, Thomasina, died of suicide in 1995 at age 31 and again in 2012 when her 17-year-old daughter, Ashley, took her own life. It wasn’t until her and her family’s lives were forever altered by suicide that Duncan said she faced issues of denial, shame and isolation, and decided she wanted to make a difference. So she created the Ashley Jadine Foundation with a mission to increase teen suicide awareness, help prevent it and reduce the stigma of mental health issues. Duncan talked about the lasting impact of suicide when she spoke for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019. “Resilience and overcoming trauma is what I talk about,” she said. “My sister’s death,” she continued, “changed my life forever because I wanted a sister … I had the stigma and I had the shame and I had the silence from ’95 to 2012, and I never spoke.” Now, she reminds others that suicide is real and explains the value of sharing real feelings with someone you trust to avoid choosing “a permanent solution for a temporary problem. “… Remember, suicidal behavior is a cry for help …” Gaines spent 43 years serving the people of his hometown as Woodford County’s property valuation administrator. He was vice president and president of the Kentucky PVA Association, and received the first Kentucky PVA Gold Service Award from his colleagues in 1988. Besides being an accomplished PVA, Gaines was also very gregarious, according to granddaughter Elizabeth Roach. “He was one of the warmest people that I’ve ever met,” she said, “just very friendly. He was just very well-known in the community for that quality. “Everybody knew him.” Volunteers Ralph Combs, Ben Crain, Chuck Fouser, Jim Gay, Doug Matthews and J. C. Moraja, who were instrumental in the opening of Community Stadium more than three decades ago, were honored by the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame. The efforts of these six tireless volunteers led a community effort in the mid-1980s to replace aging Memorial Field, with its poor lighting, limited seating capacity and “cow pasture” field conditions. Ground was broken for Community Stadium on March 16, 1987 thanks to the grassroots fundraising efforts of these core volunteers to promote an undertaking by community members to acquire land for a new athletic facility where football, soccer and other events are now held. “We took a lead role,” said Combs of him and the other core volunteers, “… but from day one, it was a county project. You couldn’t do that just anywhere. “It’s Woodford County’s stadium – always will be – but we’re proud to be recognized.” And it gives him “a great deal of pride” knowing kids in the community are still playing sports at Community Stadium, he added. Last Saturday’s induction ceremony included a moment of silence honoring the service of former Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle, who served on the Hall of Fame committee. He died last year. Launched in 2012, the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame promotes the heritage of the local school district by honoring its most accomplished alumni: graduates of WCHS, Versailles High School, Midway High School and Simmons High School, as well as school advocates.

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