Hornets’ athletic program will miss Swartzwelder

Published 2:45 am Monday, March 16, 2009

Every athletic program has them. They’re not coaches, nor players or administrators, but they are difference makers. Unfortunately for Coal Grove High School, they’ve lost one of theirs.

The death a few weeks ago of Carl Swartzwelder has left a huge hole in the support group for Coal Grove athletics.

It was 12 years ago that Roy Carpenter, Rock Keaton and Swartzwelder took the reins of Coal Grove’s athletic booster club The Hornets’ Nest. But there was more to Swartzwelder than just raising money.

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“He meant the world to Coal Grove. He was always there to help in anyway. He loved announcing the boys and girls’ basketball games and the track meets,” said Carpenter.

“Anything anybody asked he would help in any way he could. A coach called and wanted $1,300 for shooting shirts and I’d ask ‘what do you think?’ and Carl would say, “You got them. That’s what we’re here for.’”

County Commissioner Doug Malone, an outstanding running back for the Hornets, grew up with Swartzwelder. He recalled how Swartzwelder handled a 1981 motorcycle accident that left him a paraplegic.

“He never complained and he was always in pain,” said Malone. “He took his tragedy and turned it into a positive. He would talk to area high school students about what could happen if you would drink and drive. He would tell them to look at him and see what it could do.”

Tim Collins is a former high school football official remembered when calling a game at Coal Grove and Carl firing the cannon after each Hornet score.

“It would scare you to death, but he loved doing it. He was a nice guy. He was super. He would do anything for the kids and the athletic department,” said Collins.

“He was the first one to step up when they needed something. The kids loved him. If they signed to play at a college, he was the first one they called. They’re really going to miss him.”

It was nothing to see Carl working the concession stand at a football game or track meet and give some food, candy or soda pop to a kid who didn’t have the money.

“If we would win the OVC, whether it was high school or junior high, Carl made sure everyone got a jacket even if they couldn’t afford it,” said Carpenter.

“He would call coaches and tell them if a kid couldn’t afford shoes or anything else, (the boosters) would buy them. Carl worried about those kids who didn’t have anything. That was just him.”

Carpenter said the boosters are in need of members and he is asking for volunteers.

Judging by what Carl Swartzwelder did, Carpenter may need quite a few new members.

–– Sinatra ––

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.