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There's still nothing like a W.Va. sports mom

By Frank Giardina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every Mother's Day, I enjoy writing about some of the unsung heroes in our region, the sports moms of our communities. Over the years, I have learned that  there is no one quite as special as a West Virginia mom. With that in mind, here is my salute to some of the West Virginia moms in our region.  

  • JACKIE ALUISE - It is not easy to be married to a sports writer, or anyone who works in sports or athletics. We work long and unusual hours. Jackie Aluise is married to former Daily Mail sports writer, Tom Aluise and they have raised four active sons.
  • Her four sons have played a variety of sports growing up: soccer, baseball, basketball, football and even lacrosse. Whatever they have played, she has been there with her maroon shirt on with "Aluise" on the back.

    She was royalty growing up in Dunbar as a former Miss Bullpup and Miss Bulldog. Now, she is even greater royalty as a West Virginia mom.

  • AMY BARBER - It can also be challenging to be a sports mom to children of a great athlete. Amy Barber handles it well. Her husband, Mike, was an All-American wide receiver at Marshall, a College Football Hall of Famer and an NFL player with the 49ers and Bengals.
  • Their son plays baseball at Ohio University, two daughters play soccer at Concord and one daughter plays multiple sports at Hurricane High. Amazingly, the parents never seem to miss anything.

    Amy, a Huntington East grad, has been one of the most visible sports moms in Putnam County. On Wednesday night, I saw her working the long jump at the Region 4 AAA track meet at Hurricane. That's what West Virginia moms do.

  • VONA BARNES - Sadly, we lost this West Virginia mom on April 8. She was the mom of a University of Charleston Hall of Famer, Jeff Barnes, who also pitched professionally in the Texas Rangers organization. Jeff, who now has his own advertising agency, says his mom never missed any of his baseball games as a youth.
  • "She saw me play at the old Charleston Southern Little League where the Kanawha Mall now stands,'' Jeff said, "through my days at Charleston High and Morris Harvey/University of Charleston. We estimate she saw me play 400 consecutive games without missing. After every game, win or lose, if I played well or not, she always said that she was proud of me. When she passed away at the Hospice House, she was too weak to speak, but she wrote me a note in her last hours and told me that she was proud of me. After every game I won as a pitcher, I would toss her the game ball and she would smile and catch it. I would give anything to do that just one more time.''

    Game balls are special to West Virginia moms.

  • CECELIA HURT - The mother of 1970 football Kennedy Award winning Charleston High quarterback, Rickie Hurt, Cecelia Hurt was known for her incredible cooking. She fed many of the children that grew up in the Washington Manor projects.  Her deal was this: If the kids went to church on Sunday morning, she would feed them chicken dinner on Sunday afternoon.
  • She was also a disciplinarian. In the projects, the toughest of the tough guys was former Charleston High and Cincinnati football star Melvin Riggins. One day, Riggins talked two other youngsters in the neighborhood into helping him steal cakes from a parked bread truck. Cecelia Hurt caught him and threatened him with physical harm until he put everything back.

    Melvin Riggins was a tough man. He was not scared of anything or anybody. But that day, he was scared of a West Virginia mom who was trying to teach right from wrong.   

  • GENEVIEVE REPASS - Her husband died young, so she raised a daughter and a son as a single mom. Her son, Rex, played on two state championship teams at Charleston High and went on to Marshall.
  • In his freshman season, in 1972, he suffered a career-ending knee injury in a game at Bowling Green. His mother was listening to the game on the radio and she had no idea when the team would be arriving back in Huntington. She just knew that her child was hurt. So she hopped in the car, drove to Huntington and sat outside the Marshall football building for hours and hours, just waiting, until the team returned home and she could comfort her injured son.

    Think about it. They are always there when you need them. That is what West Virginia moms do.  

    Reach Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com.


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