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21 Years and Still Going Strong

Tony celebrated his 21st anniversary at WSAZ on Monday as guest speaker of the Huntington Rotary.

A Visit with Rotary

I am celebrating my 21st anniversary at WSAZ this Monday. Twenty-one very good years, if I may add!

Along the way there have been blizzards (1993, 1996) and floods (too many to count). The heat has scalded to 105 degrees (hottest in 50 years in August 2007) and the cold has been the harshest of the 20th century (-20 to -40 degrees without the wind chill, back in 1994).

I have marveled at the late beauty of fall (2007 colors on trees even on Thanksgiving week) and the rebirth of the spring season (when the dogwood, redbud, ornamental pear and cherry trees dazzle us).

My cherished successes include being an honored God Father (to Maren) and a 20 year active member of OLF (Our Lady of Fatima Church).

And so it was on this special day that I spent my anniversary as the guest speaker at the Huntington Rotary club. When the movers and shakers of your adopted home city invite you to be their guest speaker, you know you have a good gig going!

I arrived at the Pullman Plaza Hotel early so as to greet as many Rotarians as I could. Mayor Elect Wolfe and Police Chief Holbrook were among the first to shake my hand. Hey, I too am always running for office, in this case Huntington’s favorite weatherman.

Leo Fleckenstein was on hand as a guest. I had given Leo a coveted WSAZ Hometown Hero award for his volunteer dental work for the less privileged of Huntington a few years ago!

When Greenie Greenstein came thru the doors, I felt right at home as the man who loves Marshall and Huntington as much as anyone I know has always been one of my biggest backers. A master jeweler, Greenie sold me a beautiful watch for a very good price some 15 years ago. I still get complements whenever I wear it.

Rotary President-Elect Ted Kluemper and his son Teddy are good friends from church and two prominent Huntington-ians. Ted owns an insurance agency while Teddy is in charge of many activities/fund raisers for the Habitat for Humanity. Both promised they would laugh at my jokes!

As the meeting began, we took the 4 step Rotary test. Is it True, is it Fair to all concerned, will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships and will it be Benefical to all? I pondered if I would make the grade with my speech!

Jim McClelland led the singing of God Bless America (my pet song from the days when Kate Smith was the good luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers). I have ice skated with Jim before and done stories with his daughter Heidi, a pro skating coach.

Then we pledged allegiance to the flag on this eve of Veteran’s Day. I thought of my dad who had fought in the Pacific campaign in WW II and who had first noticed that gleam in my eye when it comes to weather. He would be pleased at my work here, I surmised.

Some say we have lost our edge in America, a super power waiting to be felled. I would argue groups like the Rotary are intent on keeping us great by honoring our tradition in the USA and devoting its time to serving America.

The Rotary is sponsoring a special literacy campaign where all 3 graders in Cabell County get a dictionary. They are also busy with projects like a Toy Drive to help the Salvation Army provide kids with toys for the Christmas season ahead.

President Frank Markun moved the business meeting along steadily to allow me enough time to entertain the roughly 100 in attendance. My boss here at WSAZ-TV Scott Saxton introduced me to a round of warm applause.

I opened with a quick joke on how long it has been since the Rotary asked me to come, then quickly posed a challenge. “The first lady (ladies first always) who can guess one of my top ten weather memories from the past 10 years (since my last visit to Rotary) will win this WSAZ umbrella. And here’s a hint, my outfit today is a dead give away.”

A grumbling gobbled up the hall as 100 Rotarians, including MU president Dr. Steven Kopp, tried to factor in my Marshall green coat and tie ensemble into an answer for the question. “Marshall in the snowy MAC title game”, Michele Conley blurted out as she rose to the head of the class!

"Bingo" I half shouted, as I recalled the famous snow bowl at frozen Edward’s Stadium and the ESPN nationally televised game that showcased Chad to Randy for 2 second half TDS!

I went on to talk about the 2004 floods thru Four Pole Creek and Enslow Park thanks to Hurricanes Frances and Ivan, the 2003 Ice Storm and the spring fruit and ornamental tree freeze of 2007, among other remarkable weather events.

In the Q and A session, I was pressed for evidence that Global Warming will be real 50 years from now in lieu of ice ages in centuries gone by. Charlene Farrell asked about the role the Ohio River plays in diverting weather systems. Churchill Hodges, a big Ohio State alum and backer, asked me point blank when I thought Joe Pa (Joe Paterno, the iconic football coach from Penn State, my alma mater) would retire.

The hour went by so fast that I barely had time to savor the moment. I had been privileged to use my God given talents to talk about weather to 100 men and women who truly love their hometown.

After all had gone, I sat down alone to enjoy my dessert, a luscious cheese cake. How lucky I am I thought as I wondered when the Rotary would give me the privilege to speak again!

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