Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sharon Downing, her son Jonathan, his daughter Piper, John Olesky
meet on street in The Villages, Florida   
-- photo by Paula Tucker
Bumping into BJ memories

Even though there are 120K living in The Villages, Florida, it feels like a tiny town of 500 when you go to events.

We regularly run into people we know. I run into fellow Mountaineers from my native West Virginia.

First, former BJ State Desk reporter Paula Tucker and I encountered a couple from Keyser, West Virginia. I asked them if they knew the BJ’s most famous Keyser imports, former managing editor Scott Bosley (today a Kalamazoo, Michigan retiree) and former contrarian sports columnist Tom Melody (still lurking in Akron, I think).

Keep in mind that both are in the Keyser High School Hall of Fame in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, where some of its scenery is described by John Denver in “Country Roads,” which has been proclaimed as the official state song (Denver sang it at the 1980 opening of the new Mountaineer Field and WVU fans sing it after every WVU sports victory, which happens a lot these days).

The response of the kouple from Keyser: “Well, there’s a Melody Music Store.”

I guess newspaper fame doesn’t make you a legend in Keyser.

On our way to the parking lot after the Spanish Springs Arts & Crafts Festival (there’s one every 37 minutes somewhere in The  Villages), Paula and I met Sharon Downing, widow of long-time BJ printer Hugh Downing; their son, Jonathan Downing of Toledo, Ohio;  and Jon’s daughter, Piper Downing (which reminded me of my VERY exciting ride with 200-foot drops and rises in a Piper Cub in Florida during my sportswriting days; it couldn’t get enough rpm’s to take off safely from Gainesville after the Gators’ football game, so we switched to a Comanche, a much larger plane by comparison, for our return to St. Petersburg and the safety of Nelson Poynter's Times).

Hugh – who had lived in The Villages for a couple of decades -- arranged the tee times every Thursday during the winters (a different course every time since there are about 70 to choose from) for former BJ State Desk reporter Bob Page, who works for God now as a minister, and me, the free-spirit Polish-Italian-American Mountaineer.

I rarely go anywhere without my WV shirt and WV cap and WV socks and WV underwear without running into another Mountaineer – including my travels to 55 countries and 44 states and 13 cruises.

West Virginia has only 1.8 million people, who are its #1 export.


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