Lots of cheers stirred with a few tears. Loud applause sprinkled with a cup of complete silence. Pride and joy mixed with and gratitude and humbleness.
Those intangible ingredients enabled officials with the New Castle High School Athletic Hall of Fame to serve up a most memorable induction dinner Friday night, one that was filled with delicious stories, sweet reflections and nourishing moments of inspiration.
When it was over, both stomachs and hearts were full.
Two classes were inducted on this night The Class of 2021 consisted of the late Steve Williams, Holly Gibson Radican and Claude Davis. The Class of 2022 added the late Darrell York and Mac Taylor along with Pat Cook to the Hall of Fame, which master of ceremonies Neil Thornhill said was one of the most unique in Indiana.
“I don’t think there’s any school that does a better job of honoring and preserving the history and tradition of its former players teams and coaches than New Castle High School,” Thornhill said. “And I don’t think there’s another Hall of Fame anywhere that asks its previous inductees to help serve the meal the night of the current inductees I think we’re very unique in that.”
Past inductees doing the dinner duty included Trojan legend Ray Pavy, Class of 2002; tennis, volleyball and basketball sensation Ann Stair Vail, Class of 2020; girls basketball coaching great Linda Stairs, Class of 2006; Indiana girls basketball all-star Rita Sanders McConnaughey, Class of 2003; 300-game coaching winner Sam Alford, Class of 2005; long-time assistant Larry Meyer, Class of 2014; long-time track and cross country coach David Pryor, Class of 2015; beloved junior high athletic director Jake Pasman, Class of 2016; Big Ten tackling leader Chuck Kern, Class of 2019; and all-NCC football, wrestling and track star Scott Rains, Class of 2005.
The men and women of the hour on this night were record-setters, conference champions and true scholar athletes. Poignant, funny and inspirational stories matched the storied careers of each.
Highlights of those six presentations will be in separate stories appearing in The Courier-Times in Thursday’s and Friday’s editions of the newspaper.
Below are other highlights of Friday’s induction dinner.
A moment of silence was held for two Hall of Fame members who have passed away since the last induction ceremony – Jack Wright and John Lee.
Thornhill said the New Castle Athletic Hall of Fame started about 20 years ago under the guidance of Dr. Ray Pavy, Don Geozeff and Mike Bergum.
Larry Meyer remembered being on the 1950 Trojan golf team that won the North Central Conference championship for the first time. “We received white wool sweaters that said NCC champs later that summer,” Meyer remembered. “As soon as I got mine, it was about 90 degrees but I put it on anyway. I was so proud of that.”
Chuck Kern came to the ceremony from Virginia, where he’s been an anesthiesologist since 1989. “It’s fun just to see old friends,” Kern said. “Pat Cook is a good friend of mine. I remember him when he first came here from California in third grade. It’s wonderful to see how the community still embraces all of us.”
New Castle Athletic Director Ron Baker said he’s grateful to have had so many varied experiences here. He’s served at New Castle for the past 36 years as a teacber, head coach, assistant coach, assistant athletic director and now athletic director. All four of his daughters participated in various sports for the Trojans. “I’ve been able to see all sides of our athletic teams – from the sidelines to the stands along with seeing perspectives as a coach and as a parent of athletes. I am now extremely proud to be able to continue my service to the community and to New Castle High School in my new role as athletic director.”
Qualifications to be considered for induction in New Castle High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame include having been out of school for 25 years as a player or ten years for a coach.