Updated on Wednesday:
This past weekend, I attended a Civil War display at
Trans Allegheny Books, Parkersburg. While talking to members of the
Moccasin Rangers, Dennis Carder said, “You can’t leave before 1:30
because I have a surprise coming for you!” At the appointed time, he
came back with a man and said, “Can you guess who this is?” He looked
familiar through the eyes, but I was lost on identification. He said, “I
am Chester Williams.”
I became acquainted with Chester when he was in Scouts
and Little League with my sons. I had not seen him or heard much about
him until my friend, Dennis, told me that Chester’s wife had died last
November. He also filled me in on Chester’s life since graduation from
Calhoun County High School in 1973.
Here is his story:
“I was the kind of kid who was always in trouble, not
mean, but ornery, and I won’t deny it, but looking back, I realize that
there were many people trying to help me. My dad drank a lot and my mom
worked hard to keep us together, fed and clothed. She taught us the
value of a dollar. I remember the teachers at school who were trying to
change my ways. Kenneth Hall busted a paddle on me and, of course, Paul
Stalnaker and Don McCartney had their turn too. Lucille Moore and Eloise
Divers were on my case all of the time. Mr. Bonar and Joe Virden never
gave up either.
Mrs. Godfrey was another one who seemed to have eyes in
the back of her head when she thought I was in her store wasting time. I
did things like egging an older man’s house. If he was still alive, I
would apologize. I was out on the streets, where trouble just happened.
A fight could erupt with just a few words.
And then there was Boy Scouts. I love Kitty Wilson. He
was like a father to me, didn’t put up with foolishness. I was mouthy at
camp one day and challenged him to a race. He won! He tackled me and I
knew then he was the leader. Another time, I was in real trouble and
Kitty helped me change my attitude. He taught me the lessons of life.”
His fellow scouts remember that Chester was always
present for every meeting, camp out, and special events. He was ornery,
but not mean.
“One day, I cut baseball practice and was sitting on the
courthouse steps. Park Richards, the sheriff, came out with a man of
average height and broad shoulders. This man said, ‘Chester, why aren’t
you in school?’ I let him know that I didn’t need to practice. He
grabbed me by the collar and said, ‘You listen to me, the law can take
away your money, car, license, home, voting privileges . . . because of
your actions. No one can ever take away what is in your head. Now, you
get back to school and don’t forget what I am telling you!’ This man was
Carl Morris. I will always remember this and still give this advice to
my kids. That man cared about education!” (Carl knew Chester from Scouts
and Little League.)
Chester married Sharon Sue Cunningham in 1975, served in
the Army for 10 years, worked in a steel mill in Cleveland, and attended
Glenville State College on the GI Bill, graduating in 1992. He now owns
a farm and does auto mechanic work. Sharon, also a 1973 graduate of CCHS,
died of cancer in November 2009. They were married 35 years.
“I helped raise my kids. Chasity is a graduate of Ohio
University, Chester is a graduate of Washington State Community College,
Chad attended WVU-P, and Kalianna attends a Christian middle school.”
His sisters, Nellie Jean Basnett and Elizabeth Williams,
live in North Carolina. His brother, William Collins, was killed in a
car accident 20 years ago. His late mother, who was an employee of
Rubber Fabricators, is buried in North Carolina.
“I am a better man because of growing up the way I did.
My experiences, good and bad, happened for a reason,” said Chester.
It took a county to raise a kid. Thanks to all for
caring about Chester. It made a difference.
This Week's Editorial:By Helen Morris:
Calhoun County Map