‘A big personality’: Brooke AD reflects on Ujcich’s life
WELLSBURG — Brooke Athletic Director Sean Blumette’s office was right across the hall from Ron Ujcich’s room. The pair would meet up roughly 7-8 times per week during any given school year and simply talk to one another.
It was during those times Blumette learned about the type of person Ujcich was away from the classroom, as well as off the golf course and baseball diamond.
“I don’t know if he ever had the intention of staying here for 15 years, but he loved it. He bled green and gold,” Blumette said of his friend. “This was his home. He loved the community and the school, and the community loved him. The hard part for us in the building right now is we haven’t been able to gage the reactions of the kids yet because we’re only seeing about half of them. The effect in the building has been detrimental.”
Ujcich, 45, passed away Saturday following an all-terrain vehicle accident in Piney. A graduate of Brooke High School in 1993, he returned as a teacher and never left. He also was the baseball coach for the past 14 years and just concluded his 12th as a golf coach.
“He was a guy that was always around, even if he wasn’t scheduled to be around,” Blumette said. “Just last week, there was an event I or our assistant principal could not be at. He wasn’t even involved in the conversation, but he overheard it and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it. I’ll be there.’ Whatever he could’ve done to help, he did.
“If you ever met the guy, he just had a big personality and was always willing to sit, talk and hang out. Those are some of the best memories I have of him as a person. His room was across from my office. We would run into each other 7-8 times per day and always swap stories.”
One of Ujcich’s lasting memories was guiding senior golfer Ryan Bilby to his second consecutive state championship a few weeks ago. Ujcich had special bonds with many athletes that he coached over the course of his career. The relationship with Bilby, however, was on another level.
“Over the four years that Ryan golfed here, it probably was as close to a father-son relationship as I’ve ever seen,” Blumette said “He made sure he had the proper guidance to play at his level. I know for the past two years at state, he literally walked step by step with Ryan.
“We knew Ryan was going to be special when he was a freshman, and Ron really embraced that. He not only helped him with his golf game, but he also helped him more with the pressure and mental aspect of the game. Ron always was so conscious of not allowing Ryan to buckle under the pressure. I’ve seen him do that with many of his kids but definitely with Ryan at the OVACs and state championships. To be able to do that is what I think was Ron’s strongest ability.”
As one of what will be many dedications, the lights at the Brooke baseball field were shining as the sun rose Monday morning. Blumette will not be surprised if the field will be renamed after Ujcich in the near future.
The Brooke volleyball team wore yellow ribbons in its hair during Monday’s matchup against Weir High. The Bruins also had a moment of silence, and there will be another during the boys’ sectional soccer contest tonight. The football team will wear a U on its helmets for the remainder of the season. Finally, at least for the time being, a scholarship will be made in his honor.
“Those were two programs I never had to worry about. I knew from the start of the season to the last game or match that the field, schedules, transportation and umpires were taken care of,” Blumette said. “He took ownership of those programs, and that’s an invaluable asset to any program. He took baseball down to Disney a few years back. That was one of those situations where everybody else was doing it, so why not us? I think they went six out of the last seven years. It was just amazing to see what he was able to do.
“It didn’t matter if they were varsity or jayvee. He treated everybody like one of his own, and he really made the kids feel like they were a part of something, whether it was in golf or baseball. He was able to take kids that were talented and good players and made them better by working on the mental aspect of the game and their maturity. He was always very conscious of how his kids represented the school and how he represented the school.
“He had a very outgoing personality. It’s going to take awhile to get over this. The biggest thing we’re going to struggle with is the fact that he put his kids and the program first. The amount he put into it for both of those programs out of his own time and pocket … you can’t even count them all. We didn’t even know half of them. He just did it.”