Torch Relay kicks off Wheeling weekend

WHEELING – Memorial Day weekend opens in Wheeling Friday with a traveling tribute to the nation’s veterans.

The observance kicks off at 4 p.m., when participants in the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Veterans Torch Relay lift a burning beacon in the air at the Osiris Shrine Temple in Elm Grove and head west across the city.

“This is not an athletic event,” said Race Director R. “Scat” Scatterday. “This is a serious tribute to our military.”

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger and West Virginia Northern Community College President Martin Olshinsky will be the first to carry the torch west along National Road, handing it off to Ohio County sheriff’s Deputies Kris Waechter and Jason Bracher-Musty near the point where Interstates 70 and 470 meet. The deputies will pass the torch to Deputy Police Chief Mike VanKirk near the Wheeling Park exit off U.S. Route 40, and VanKirk will run along U.S. 40 to the entrance of Howard Place, where John Looney will take over.

Looney will travel to Washington Avenue, where Joe Foster – best known for running the entire Ogden Half Marathon while carrying a large flag – will assume the duty and run the torch to the top of Chicken Neck Hill. There, he will be met by city Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge.

Delbrugge will continue west on U.S. 40 until she hands the torch to Brenda Danehart and Rachael Dierkes at Perkins Family Restaurant and Bakery. They will relay to Generations Restaurant and Pub, where the torch will be handed to U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Novotney, who represents the Gulf War-era veterans.

Scatterday said veterans and family members of veterans for the Gulf War era, 1991 to present, can join Novotney in carrying the torch at the bottom of Wheeling Hill, on the Fulton side. The group will proceed up the hill to the windmill, where they will meet U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Steve Habursky and the Vietnam War-era veterans.

The combined groups will proceed down Wheeling Hill to the historical marker, where they will join with the Korean War-era veterans of 1951-60 and retired U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jim L. Koonce.

The next stop is at the former Lincoln School, where the groups will gather with retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Dale Sigler and the World War II-era veterans, including all those who served during WWII and up until 1950.

Looney will rejoin the group at the Federal Building on Chapline Street and lead it to 14th Street and then across the Ogden Half Marathon start-finish line. Looney will offer remarks at a short ceremony at the finish.

The Torch Relay and subsequent ceremony will conclude in traditional military fashion, when the streets of Wheeling echo with the sound of taps, played by members of the West Virginia Army National Guard.

Scatterday pointed out that the Oglebay Trolley will follow the entire Torch Relay procession, offering transportation to any family member or veteran who wants to join in but may not be physically able to walk the distance.

Vendors will be available on Water Street beginning at 11 a.m. Friday. Other race-related events Friday are the Tiny Tot Trot at 6:45 p.m. on 14th Street; the Ogden Fun Run at 7:15 p.m., stepping off from the top of Wheeling Hill; and the Ogden Mile and Masters Mile at 7:30 p.m., also beginning at the top of Wheeling Hill.