CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Though they both probably feared meeting Pearl Rogers in the hereafter, George Daugherty and Libby Squire had decided the 111th Pinch Reunion this weekend would be the last.
"I'm 80," said Daugherty, an entertainer also known as the Earl of Elkview. He had assisted Pearl Rogers for 25 years in her role of president of the reunion. Then Squire, Rogers' daughter, took over as president for 34 years.
But Squire was hospitalized recently for a hip replacement. The open-air auditorium on the reunion grounds had been vandalized and then damaged by this summer's storms.
Daugherty and Squire reluctantly realized that unless someone stepped forward, they couldn't organize a 2013 gathering. The Pinch Reunion would no longer be the oldest continuous reunion in the country.
"It broke our heart," Daugherty said.
But before they could get the word out, someone stepped forward.
Melissa Starcher called Squire to see if she needed help with the reunion. Squire invited her to a committee meeting, but added that it would be the last such meeting.
"No, it's not," thought Starcher.
She grew up in the Big Chimney area. Her husband, Kenn, lived in Pinch. They went on dates in junior and senior high school to the Pinch Reunion. She was crowned queen one summer.
She had been looking forward to taking their 3-year-old daughter and 15-month-old son to the reunion.
"I was flabbergasted," Starcher said, after she hung up from talking to Squire.
She headed straight for her husband's office to report the news (both are assistant prosecutors in the Kanawha County prosecuting attorney's office).