Educator Looks To An Angel

If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift with an inspiring theme, an area resident’s new storybook may just fit the stocking.

Jan Thornton Jones of New Martinsville has published her first children’s book, “The Angel in the Park.” The illustrated volume tells a story of a young child who hears her minister’s message in church and then takes action to help homeless people who live in the town’s park.

The author commented, “This is the story of a young child’s choice to make a difference in her community. By doing so, has she actually served (as) an angel in disguise?”

Jones, a retired teacher, is a graduate of Magnolia High School and West Virginia University where she earned a degree in elementary education and two Master of Arts degrees.

She taught for both Tyler County Schools and Wetzel County Schools, but most of her teaching was in a first-grade classroom at New Martinsville School and pre-kindergarten at the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families.

“The Angel in the Park” is Jones’ first published book. She has another children’s book that is scheduled to be published. The second book will be available in the summer of 2018.


Debbie Hinkle, daughter of former Welty Home resident Virginia Ritner, has again honored her late mother with a donation to the Wheeling home’s giving tree, which provides gifts for people in need in the community.

Hinkle and other family members have spent the past year making hats and scarves to help less-fortunate people in Wheeling during the cold winter months. They are honoring the memory of Ritner, who loved to knit and crochet and always made numerous items for the giving tree.

A few weeks ago, Welty Home officials received a box filled with hats and scarves that Hinkle had crocheted in honor of her mother. These items and other gifts made or purchased by Welty Home residents will be distributed to people at the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center in time for Christmas.

Hinkle told Michelle Ruckman, the Welty Home’s activities director, that her family wanted to follow her mother’s shining example and give back to others.


West Liberty University’s art department will have a large void — or a blank canvas, so to speak — to fill when the second semester begins in January.

Longtime art faculty members Robert Villamagna and Nancy Tirone are both retiring this month.

Reflecting on the departure of Villamagna and Tirone at the end of the fall semester, Dr. Matthew Harder, dean of the College of Arts and Communication, stated, “Combined, they represent over 57 years of service to the art program at West Liberty University. We’re very sad to see them go, but wish them the best as they enter the next phase.”

Villamagna has served as an assistant professor of art and director of the university’s Nutting Art Gallery. A 2017 inductee in the Wheeling Hall of Fame and a former West Virginia artist of the year, he plans to spend more time making art in his Wheeling studio after retiring from academia.

Tirone has been an associate professor of art at West Liberty. She is a member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Society of Artists and the West Virginia Art and Craft Guild.


Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present a sensory-friendly performance of “The Nutcracker,” adapted for patrons with special needs, at 2 p.m. Dec. 26 at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Organizers explained that the performance features extra support and adaptations for people with sensory sensitivities, autism spectrum disorders and other special needs.

Officials said PBT began presenting sensory-friendly programming in December 2013, when it became the first professional ballet company in the country to present a sensory-friendly performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Since that time, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has presented three sensory-friendly performances of “The Nutcracker” and adapted performances of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Peter Pan.”

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: