‘We cannot stop it’
2 W.Va. college students watch Balkans crisis from afar
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER
    Marko Mijuskovic can clearly remember the day when he walked through a graveyard in his homeland this past summer.
A slain Serbian officer was being buried. A woman threw herself at the coffin, screaming “My son, my son!” as the body was lowered into the ground.
    Mijuskovic is from Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He is a 23-year-old computer programming major at Salem-Teikyo University.
Anastas Shkurti can hardly watch the death and destruction on television. “I don’t have the words to describe how I feel. It’s inhuman. I feel ashamed I am a human because there are other people who can commit those atrocities.”
    Shkurti is from Pogradec, Albania, a city of about 40,000 people in one of the poorest countries in the Balkans. He is a 20-year-old political science and mathematics major at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Mijuskovic and Shkurti are thousands of miles from their families, relatives and friends. They live 34 miles apart in West Virginia.
    Both have been watching the crisis develop in their homeland. Both worry about their families and their countries. And both agree that in this war, there are no winners.
    The crisis has affected Mijuskovic and Shkurti from the very beginning. “At the beginning, I was sick. I couldn’t get out of bed for five days,” Mijuskovic said. “I watched the TV from dusk to dawn.”
    Shkurti has felt sick about the 200,000 Kosovar Albanians who have been seeking refuge in Albania. The mass exodus could create widespread civil unrest in his country. There are thousands of mouths to feed, people to clothe and shelter. Many are deathly ill.
    “The people in Albania were hoping for a peaceful solution,” Shkurti said. “They feel betrayed. It never happened.”
Mijuskovic’s friends told him they would stand on bridges in Belgrade, hoping to serve as a human shield that would deter NATO from bombing them.
    Shkurti, however, supports the airstrikes. He believes the Serbian government somehow had to be punished. Even so, the strikes may not actually help anybody, he said. “Strikes or no strikes, Albanians are in a losing situation.”
    For now, Mijuskovic can only watch and pray. “I realize that I’m too small to change anything myself. I can just observe what is going on. The only thing I can do is pray and hope everything is going to be all right.”
    The same situation holds true for Shkurti. “I feel small. I am unable to do anything about it. We cannot stop it.”
Mijuskovic believes both sides are making mistakes. And, he said, the American media has shown a skewed version of the crisis. He believes they haven’t reported either side fairly. “They will tell you that there are civilian casualties in Yugoslavia. But they will spend one sentence on it,” he said. “It’s like we don’t die.”
    Shkurti believes NATO should have already devised a plan to end the crisis. “NATO’s ace was the airstrikes. NATO showed the ace. But now what? There is nothing to back it up. They are spending too much time convincing the American people that the strikes are necessary. They need a backup plan.”
    Mijuskovic and Shkurti both believe that starting a ground war would only lead to more death, more destruction and perhaps no real solution. “I just want to see something else,” Shkurti said. “I hope it’s peaceful.”
“There’s no good guys, bad guys,” Mijuskovic said. “If we all had this level of thinking that we are citizens on this earth, that we are not Serbian or American, we would all be better off.”


Bikers raise money
for Special Olympics
by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER
    The image is an indelible one on the American psyche. A roaring Harley tearing up the road, ridden by a filthy outlaw flaunting all that’s good and decent and civilized.
    It’s an image created 45 years ago on the silver screen by Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones,” and fostered in real life by the legendary Hell’s Angels biker gang.
    Deservedly or not, a pack of bikers going on a “run” was once call for riot gear and panic among the citizenry.
Oh, how the times have changed.
    Today, local bikers are some of the most enthusiastic fund raisers for a variety of charities, and they are one of the most politically active groups in the state. Modern bikers are professionals who belong to associations like Bikers Against Discrimination and American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.
    “Most of these guys have $30,000 in a piece of equipment,” said “Boo” Gross, who heads up a group of  bikers that raises money and collects for Taylor County Toys for Tots. “They’re not a bunch of hellions.”
    On Saturday, a group of nearly 100 bikers gathered for a poker run to raise money for the Harrison County Special Olympics. Each biker paid a $10 entrance fee, then the group traveled to five spots from Jane Lew to Grafton. Each biker collected a poker card at every stop and the one with the best hand at the end took home $100. The rest of the money, $750, went to the Special Olympics.
    The alliance of bikers and Special Olympians was initiated by Dorothy Snyder, whose daughter, Karen, is a Special Olympics swimmer and bowler, and whose son, Chris, rides with Charities, a local biker group.
Chris broke his leg last year in a charity run when a truck he was following spilled firewood on the road. “But he’s recovered and at it again,” his mother said. “That will never keep me off the road,” said Chris Snyder, of Parkersburg.
Dorothy said her son has “brought her around” on the issue of riding motorcycles. Not so for Bob Nestor’s mother, who still thinks riding a bike is synonymous with being bad.
    But that’s not the impression you get from Nestor, the leader of Charities, who talks more like the head of the United Way.
“We’ve helped a bunch of people in Harrison County,” said Nestor, of Grafton. “We started with nothing and we’re up to close to $4,000. There’s a lot of people that need help.”
    For Gross, with Hard Times, a group that raises money for a Christmas children’s benefit, bikes and raising money are full-time hobbies. “We don’t just go around two days before the event,” he said.
    Even if the substance of motorcycle culture has changed, the outward appearance remains as intriguingly outlaw as ever.
Perhaps no one at Saturday’s bike run exemplified this more than “Big Jim” Bronder. At 6- foot-5, and sporting a long beard, pony tail, gold earring and a large silver bracelet in the design of the grim reaper, Bronder could have easily been mistaken for a menacing Hell’s Angel.
    Actually, the 60-year-old former Los Angeles resident has known his share of Angels in his 30 years of riding in California. “I was there when it was pretty bad,” he said. “That’s died down now.”
    Bronder is actually one of the most congenial people you can meet, with a hearty laugh and an infectious zest for life.
He is also a retired manager at Pacific Bell, who wore three-piece suits to meetings, pony tail, beard and all.
    “You walk into a meeting like this and they say ‘Uh-oh, he must be somebody to look like that,’” said Bronder, who has since retired to a 500-acre Doddridge County farm.
    The striking picture of shining chrome motorcycles and their leather-clad, samaritan riders was a big hit with the Special Olympians and the staff at the Joyce Street Hardee’s, where the run began. “They make such beautiful, sweet music,” said Special Olympian Daniel Thompson of the thundering bikes.


Note-taking business
making an impression
by Paul Leakan
STAFFWRITER
    MORGANTOWN — Roy Batson Jr. stood behind the counter, shuffling papers, glaring at his watch, waiting for a few men to fix his copier.
    A young woman walked through the door and flashed a bright orange card at him. “Hey, how’d you do on that last test?” Batson asked, reaching into his files to pull a folder full of notes. “I got an A,” the woman said. “That’s what I like to hear,” Batson said. The woman then thumbed through the notes and left.
    The bright orange card was a pass for an entire semester’s worth of class notes. The cost: $30. Batson had the notes ready well before the woman came in.
    As the owner and manager of Class Notes Inc., he knows the importance of pleasing his customers.
Batson, a 25-year-old Clarksburg native, also knows that some people in Morgantown may not be pleased with his line of business. Class Notes sells notes for 60 classes at West Virginia University.
    The notes are written by students who are required to have a minimum 3.2 cumulative grade point average.
Some university professors had criticized another note-taking service in town that closed down before the spring semester.
    They complained that students skipped class, knowing that they could just buy the notes instead. Batson does not want people to get the wrong impression about his business.
    Batson, a senior advertising major at WVU, tells his customers that the notes should be used as a supplement, not a substitute, for class attendance. “A lot of the classes are tough,” he said. “Students aren’t ready for them.”
    Still, he’s not naive. He knows that some students use the notes just so they can skip class.
Batson believes that while the notes may help students excel in class, they simply cannot take the place of going to class, taking notes and asking the professor questions.
    If students fail to go to class, they are only hurting themselves, Batson tells his customers. But even with that advice, Batson knows some professors may disapprove of the note-taking service.
    He has written professors to show them the notes and ask them what they think about the notes. If they disapprove of the notes, he said he would consider dropping that professor’s class from his roster in the future. The real test may come this fall. Batson plans on expanding to cover almost 140 classes.
    Batson already believes he will copy an average of 120,000 pages of notes over a four-month period. He’s confident that as long as students and professors support the service, his business will prosper.
    And, he said, he’ll be able to make his parents proud. “I’m very close with my mom and dad. And I wanted to do something they would be proud of — so they can say, ‘Hey, this is what my son does.’”


Field of dreams
South Harrison parents and volunteers turn
‘Chernobyl’ into a top-flight baseball field
    The field was so bad, the players called it “Chernobyl.” Devoid of an outfield fence, littered with ruts and stones in its all-dirt infield and with a two-lane ash track running through the middle of the outfield, it was one of the worst in North Central West Virginia.
    And until two years ago, the South Harrison baseball team called it home. “It was just awful,” South Harrison coach Brad Nutter said. “There were no boundaries, the backfield was too short and we had that track right in the outfield. The best I can say is that it served its purpose until we got    something nicer.”
    That something nicer is the South Harrison “Field of Dreams,” built with $200,000 raised through donations and a bank loan and countless hours of volunteer service. Instead of an eyesore, South Harrison now has a showpiece.
    Opened for the 1997 season, the field has plush grass, a symmetrical outfield, foul poles, a scoreboard, concrete dugouts, press box, concession stand and bleacher seating for 1,200 fans. In short, it rivals many minor league ballparks.
And it’s made a major-league impact for South Harrison players.
    The field “makes you feel proud about the school and the team,” shortstop Andrew Richards said. “You feel you’re the best, because you’re playing on probably the best field in the state or maybe on the East Coast.”
So far, South Harrison hasn’t been a disappointment. In its two years at the new field, SHHS has participated in Class AA regional play, falling just one game short of the state tournament a year ago.
    Last season, South Harrison was host to a regional tournament, an honor awarded only by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission to schools with the best facilities. “We could never have hosted a regional tournament on our old field,” Nutter said. “With the one we have now, the sky’s the limit.”
It nearly never happened.
    Residents of Lost Creek and the surrounding communities that compose South Harrison had known for years the change needed to be made. But in an area dominated by football and without the necessary funding, prospects seemed bleak.
“The idea was a seed. All it took was a little water,” Nutter said. “This was a dream by a few, but became a reality by a lot of people.”
    About four years ago, a group of concerned parents took the first step, coaxing area business to help fund the project. They then secured the bank loan worth approximately $60,000, but only after nearly 30 parents and friends signed open-end notes responsible for a percentage of the repayment. With the addition of donated building materials, construction began in the fall of 1995.
Then came the real work.
    Mike Lowther, father of South Harrison catcher Michael Lowther and self-employed contractor, epitomized the community-wide support of the project. He put aside his work for two years to focus full-time on the field.
“I can remember putting footers in during the middle of winter,” Lowther said. “Everybody chipped in one way or another. We couldn’t have done this without the community.”
    Lowther and his fellow groundskeepers aerated the infield, spread fertilizer and weed killer, watered, cut and then watered the grass again. When that was done, work began on the two-story brick pressbox and concession stand, plus on the professional-size dugouts.
    “A lot of sweat and blood was put out for the students,” Nutter said. “It’s a nice feeling that bigger communities don’t put forth the effort that a small town like ours did.” The hard work is about more than just intangibles, too.
    A professional appraiser has estimated the “Field of Dreams” is worth $450,000, more than twice what it cost, Nutter said. After four years, South Harrison now finds itself just $9,500 away from paying off its bank loan and setting a remarkable example of what communities can achieve.
    “It could be done anywhere,” Lowther said. “You just need two or three leaders and the initiative to do it.”
regional tournament, an honor awarded only by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission to schools with the best facilities. “We could never have hosted a regional tournament on our old field,” Nutter said. “With the one we have now, the sky’s the limit.”
It nearly never happened.
    Residents of Lost Creek and the surrounding communities that compose South Harrison had known for years the change needed to be made. But in an area dominated by football and without the necessary funding, prospects seemed bleak.
“The idea was a seed. All it took was a little water,” Nutter said. “This was a dream by a few, but became a reality by a lot of people.”
    About four years ago, a group of concerned parents took the first step, coaxing area business to help fund the project. They then secured the bank loan worth approximately $60,000, but only after nearly 30 parents and friends signed open-end notes responsible for a percentage of the repayment.
    With the addition of donated building materials, construction began in the fall of 1995. Then came the real work.
Mike Lowther, father of South Harrison catcher Michael Lowther and self-employed contractor, epitomized the community-wide support of the project. He put aside his work for two years to focus full-time on the field.
“I can remember putting footers in during the middle of winter,” Lowther said. “Everybody chipped in one way or another. We couldn’t have done this without the community.”
    Lowther and his fellow groundskeepers aerated the infield, spread fertilizer and weed killer, watered, cut and then watered the grass again. When that was done, work began on the two-story brick pressbox and concession stand, plus on the professional-size dugouts.
    “A lot of sweat and blood was put out for the students,” Nutter said. “It’s a nice feeling that bigger communities don’t put forth the effort that a small town like ours did.”
The hard work is about more than just intangibles, too.
     A professional appraiser has estimated the “Field of Dreams” is worth $450,000, more than twice what it cost, Nutter said.
    After four years, South Harrison now finds itself just $9,500 away from paying off its bank loan and setting a remarkable example of what communities can achieve. “It could be done anywhere,” Lowther said. “You just need two or three leaders and the initiative to do it.”



French Creek’s one ‘wild’ town
by Deanna Wrenn
CORRESPONDENT
    French Creek is a community rich in both history and promise for the future. Residents can trace their heritage back to the original settlers of the area, while a wildlife center continues to draw people to the area.
    French Creek’s first settlers, however, weren’t interested in animals. The first families took the 600-mile wagon ride from Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut to French Creek around 1808. By 1835, the town had grown and boasted more than 60 homes.
    “It used to be self-supportive,” said Virginia Bly Hoover, area history enthusiast. “We had a milliner, a doctor, a dressmaker, a harnessmaker, a shoe cobbler — everything we needed.”
    Hoover now helps others look up their family genealogy and other information about French Creek. She is also a member of the Descendants of the French Creek Pioneers.
    The group, which was formed in 1921, meets every two years in the French Creek Presbyterian Church. Over their traditional bean supper, they discuss the current issues of the day as well as reminisce about the past.
    “We have a really good time,” said fellow Descendants member Betty Phillips. “It’s good to know your history.”
The history of French Creek changed when the automobile became a major part of life. The stand-alone craftsmen soon closed down shop and nearby towns like Buckhannon became the place to shop. “It’s like most other villages,” Hoover said. “The automobile changed that way of life.”
    The automobile brought new things in French Creek, one of them being the West Virginia State Wildlife Center.
Thanks to the growth of the automobile, thousands of people started coming to the area to see the animals native to the state.
    The park opened in 1923, when state officials used the 329-acre tract of land as a game farm to increase wildlife populations that were quickly declining due to hunting. More than 6,000 people came to the game farm in 1926 to see the animals.
    “They were first raising animals to increase population, but then they figured out that limiting the hunting season and making bag limits was the way to control the population,” said Bill Vanscoy, superintendent of the facility. “It gradually evolved from a game farm into a roadside menagerie.”
    Visitors can walk along a paved path and see otters, cougars, deer, wolves, bobcats, bison, elk, bears, boars, coyotes and numerous other birds and animals found in the state.
    “We get anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 visitors a season, depending on how nice the weather is,” Vanscoy said. “It’s been a popular day destination for local folks forever, but we also get groups from all over the world.”
Although Vanscoy has worked at the Wildlife Center for 27 years, he does not usually get attached to the animals. There is one exception — Kitty, a bobcat Vanscoy and his family raised in their home. When it got too big, they brought it to the center. “We raised it on a baby bottle and it was very good,” Vanscoy said. “But we finally got to the point where every time we played, I bled. So she had to come over here.”
    Now when Vanscoy approaches the bobcat with a tour group, the cat usually recognizes his voice and comes over. Visitors enjoy the chance to see such usually reclusive and nocturnal animals.
    The Wildlife Center also offers visitors a picnic area, where Fairmont resident Randy Morris and his family like to come and enjoy the weather. “I really like the animals and the exhibits,” Morris said. “This park contains all the wildlife of the state and it’s a nice way to spend time with your family.”
    The future looks bright for the center. It is currently in the first of a three-phase master plan, which will eventually provide the center with an education and interpretive center, waterfowl and aquatic mammal areas, a nocturnal animal exhibit, walk-through flight cages, an aquarium and an auditorium.
    The Wildlife Center is not the only reason people are coming to French Creek. Many newer residents say they enjoy the laid-back, quiet lifestyle of this rural community.
    “It’s quiet and peaceful,” said Barbara Lee, who has lived in the area for 14 years. “Plus, it’s not too far from town so you can get there quickly if you need something.”
    With the combination of the rich history of the area and the Wildlife Center’s development plans, French Creek is a place where residents enjoy the past and look to the future.



Italian Fest’s new queen has strong
family ties
by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER
    Abigail Manchin Llaneza grew up in what has become recognized as the prototypical Italian-American family. A strong emphasis on familial bonds, church every Sunday and lots of pasta and homemade breads. “And of course they always drank the wine,” she said.
    But Llaneza recognizes that the traditions her family has perpetuated underlie deeper sentiments. Those traditions speak to her family’s pride in their heritage and the struggles they faced as immigrants to this country.
    Llaneza remembers the story of her great-grandfather, Dominick Ferrise, who had to pay to bring his wife, Maria, to this country. Dominick paid a penny for every pound his wife weighed, Llaneza said.
    Her paternal grandparents, Tressie Ferrise Llaneza and the late Angel Llaneza immigrated from Spain to work in the zinc factory in Spelter. “We didn’t have to go through the struggles, but I appreciate the struggles they went through,” Llaneza said. “I see a lot of families that don’t have the closeness that my family did.”
    The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival was conceived 21 years ago as a way for local residents to remember and cherish the traditions of families like Llaneza’s.
    Llaneza has been chosen to reign as Regina Maria XXI at the 1999 West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival. The new queen, a freshman at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., was introduced at the festival’s annual Spring Gala Saturday before a crowd of about 400 people at the Clarksburg Moose Lodge. She will be crowned at the festival’s opening ceremony on September 3. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous because I am,” she said.
    Unlike a pageant, where contestants enter a race, the festival’s queen is chosen by a select committee, said Rosalyn Queen, the festival’s executive director. “You’re looking for a young lady who will get up in front of a crowd of thousands of people and say ‘I’m an Italian-American and I’m proud of it,’” Queen said.
    Each year, the committee looks for someone from a different part of the state. This year, the committee looked for someone from the Fairmont area. After talking to everyone from priests to teachers, the group found Llaneza, a Farmington native and the daughter of Manuel Gerard Llaneza and Paula Manchin Llaneza. “She represents what we all strive for the young Italian-American to be,” Queen said. “She’s active, she’s intelligent. Education is very important to her. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she’s a very beautiful young lady.”
    Llaneza is an integrated science and technology major at James Madison. It is a new major that concentrates on math and science applications with computers. Llaneza hopes to work for an Internet company when she graduates.
While the experience of being queen should be helpful in any future career, for Llaneza the best part of being queen goes back to family values. “All my family comes up to the festival anyhow, so to be with them is another great aspect for me,” she said.


Return

Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999