Members of the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board announced the names of 11 individuals to be honored at its 2023 induction ceremony this summer. The announcement was made at a press conference Friday inside WesBanco Arena by board Chairman Robert DeFrancis.
“The Wheeling Hall of Fame class of 2023 holds a plethora of historical connections to contemporary Wheeling. Plus, there are living inductees whose accomplishments are very well known to current citizens. This means once again that the upcoming ceremony is relevant as well as being a testament to the diligent work of the Hall of Fame board,” said DeFrancis.
The induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 10 inside WesBanco Arena. The catered dinner event is open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at WesbancoArena.com, by calling the box office at 304-233-7000, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
The Wheeling Hall of Fame is on display inside WesBanco Arena and is currently comprised of 155 individuals. Created by city council in 1977, inductees are classified into the categories of Business, Industry and Professions, Education and Religion, Music and Fine Arts, Public Service, Philanthropy and Sports and Athletics.
The Wheeling Hall of Fame board consists of Chairman Robert DeFrancis, Vice-Chair Jeanne Finstein, Secretary-Treasurer Philip Stahl, Council Representative Jerry Sklavounakis, F. Wayne Barte, Laura Carroll, Dick Coury, Rev. Darrell Cummings, George Frazier, Jay Frey; David Javersak, Charles J. Kaiser, Kim McCluskey, Kelly Rine, Georgette Stock, Dianna Vargo, Chris Villamagna and Rev. Bob Willits.
Inductees for the Class of 2023 are:
EDWARD BATES FRANZHEIM
(Business, Industry and Professions)
A major architect in West Virginia, he designed some of Wheeling’s most prominent buildings beginning in 1890. He attended Linsly Military Institute and Chauncey Hall in Boston. Some of his most famous buildings were designed in the Richardsonian style, such as Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church and the City Bank of Wheeling (Professional Building). Other notable works include the YWCA Building, the Board of Trade/Court Theatre, the John Schenk mansion (Altenheim), the El Villa and the Virginia apartments, Ohio Valley General Hospital, the Hazel- Atlas Building, the Sterling Products Building, the Rogers Hotel, and the gates to Wheeling Park.
MARY ANN HESS
Graduating from Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, she attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and was an active parishioner at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. While raising six children, Mary Ann still found time to play tennis and be an active member of the Junior League of Wheeling, League of Women Voters, Friends of Wheeling, and the Meals on Wheels program. In 1998, the Hess Family Foundation was created for philanthropy, charity, and voluntarism. The Lazarus House, Friends of Wheeling Preservation Loan Guarantee Program, Project HOPE, Oglebay Foundation, Youth Services System, Catholic Charities, NAMI, Marian House, Towngate Theater, and Liza’s Place are just a few beneficiaries.
DR. WILLIAM C. MERCER
Board certified in family medicine and geriatrics, he served hospitals in the Wheeling area and was medical director of the Ohio County Health Department for 22 years. In 1996, Pittsburgh Magazine named him a top regional doctor. In 2008 in West Virginia, he was cited as the Family Physician of the Year. For his efforts to end homelessness and to treat addictions, he earned the 2016 YSS Good Samaritan of the Year award. His commitment to the mental and physical well-being of those outside his private practice also resulted in his nationally recognized anti-smoking campaign aimed at youth. The grand marshal of the 2018 city Christmas parade joins his father and brother in the Hall of Fame.
REV. JAMES A. O’BRIEN, S.J.
(Education and Religion)
One of eight children born to James and Julia O’Brien, he was ordained a priest in 1960. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola University, Chicago. In 1962, the young and longest serving Jesuit priest arrived at Wheeling College to teach philosophy. The 1970s Appalachian Bishops Pastoral Letter served as a call to action for him. He organized the first Appalachian Experience Student Club in 1978 to help those in need in southern West Virginia. Father O’Brien is quoted saying, “There is a line in an old verse that says one should ‘live by the side of the road and be a friend to those who pass by.’ That’s what I’ve tried to do – be a faithful person to God and others.”
ROBERT J. OTTEN
A central figure in two of Wheeling’s best-known and on-going attractions, the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park and amateur hockey, Bob Otten’s expertise in both also ensured their longevity. The festival began in 1985 with the first of his 50 light show designs, and since that date, it has attracted several million visitors to Wheeling during the Christmas season. In 1964, he founded the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association, where teams now compete for the Bob Otten Cup. His work also helped attract professional minor league hockey to the city. An interior and stage designer, he first worked for the Wheeling Park Commission as its creative director and later joined Stone & Thomas Department Store from which he retired as a corporate vice president.
(Business, Industry and Professions)
Starting his business career in Wheeling as secretary of Nail City Glass and the Manufacturers Insurance Co., he later was the senior member of the Alfred Paull & Son general insurance agency. He also was secretary of the Ohio Valley General Hospital, a four-year member of Wheeling City Council, served eight years as a member of the Board of Education, was a director of the YMCA, and was a prominent Mason. As an active member and ruling elder of Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church, he organized the famous Men’s Bible Class, which had 250 members and an average attendance of 115. His descendants remain active in the insurance and real estate business in Wheeling.
JOAN CORSON STAMP
This community leader is a thoughtful benefactor of the arts, music, public parks, and educational institutions in Wheeling, the state of West Virginia, and the Mid-Atlantic region. Her guidance and financial support have greatly enriched the lives of patrons of Oglebay Park, Oglebay Institute, Wheeling Symphony Society, Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, WVU Rosenbaum Family House, West Virginia University, WVU Foundation, the WVU Alumni Center, National Symphony Orchestra, and The Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley. She is the fourth member of the extended Stifel family to enhance the quality of life for residents of the Wheeling community as a philanthropist.
EDWIN M. “NED” STECKEL JR.
(Sports and Athletics)
A national award-winning network television producer, this Linsly Military Institute graduate continued his education at the University of Michigan and Bethany College and earned a degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His broadcasting career included employment with WKWK and WTRF in Wheeling, WOLF in Syracuse, WTAE and WIIC in Pittsburgh, and ABC Sports in New York. From 1965–84, he served as assistant to executive producer Roone Arledge, and as a producer/director, winning eight Emmy awards for “ABC’s Wide World of ports,” college football, and various summer and winter Olympic games. Leaving broadcasting, he joined the communications faculty at Bethany College.
BEATRICE ANN THOMAS
(Education and Religion)
Growing up in Wheeling, Ann graduated from newly integrated Wheeling High School in 1956. The first Black student ever enrolled at Ohio Valley General Hospital’s school of nursing, Ann graduated in 1959, became a Registered Nurse, worked at the hospital for 12 years, and then in 1971 began a 30-year career as a nurse with Ohio County Schools. A pioneer all her life, Ann overcame the obstacles of racism and discrimination with grit and grace. Throughout her service as a nurse, and in retirement, she also served her community as a volunteer, advocate, role model, and leader, helping to make it a better place to live for people of all colors, abilities, faiths, and world views.
EDITH LAKE WILKINSON
(Music and Fine Arts)
Leaving Wheeling for New York at the age of 20 to pursue life as an artist, Edith joined the Provincetown Art Colony in Cape Cod, MA, in 1914, where her canvases exploded with color and light. She was among the first to create White Line prints with fellow West Virginia artist Blanche Lazzell. In the 1920s, a Wheeling attorney managing her inheritance absconded her funds and committed her to an asylum. She later was moved to Huntington State Hospital where she spent the rest of her life. Her body of work was packed into trunks and shipped to relatives in Wheeling. Decades later, the trunk’s contents were discovered, and Edith and her art were introduced to the 21st century.
(Music and Fine Arts)
Born Jessie Wanda Crupe in Bethany, WV, “The Girl with the Lullaby Voice” was a country musician known for performing on WWVA’s Wheeling Jamboree radio program. After having three daughters, she joined her husband’s act, Doc Williams and The Border Riders, with the stage name “Chickie” where she provided vocals and played upright bass. Chickie’s original arrangement of the hymn “Beyond the Sunset” was a No. 3 hit that later was recorded by Hank Williams and Red Foley. She remained a Jamboree cast member for 52 years, retiring with her husband. In 2008, the state named a section of Interstate 70 in Wheeling the “Doc and Chickie Williams Highway; Country Music Royal Couple.”