Hofreuter To End Service On Park Commission

Photo by Scott McCloskey Dr. Donald has spent 20 years serving on the Wheeling Park Commission and plans to turn the job over to a “fresh set of eyes and ears” at the end of the month.

WHEELING — Seventy years ago, Dr. Donald Hofreuter’s first job was checking in swimmers’ baskets of clothes at the Wheeling Park swimming pool which was just a short walk from his childhood Dimmeydale home. The job allowed him the opportunity to play golf and enjoy the other amenities at the popular park.

Later in his adult life, Hofreuter, a longtime general practitioner, would reside a stone’s throw from all that Oglebay Park has to offer.

“I used to walk the golf course at Oglebay almost every day with Father (Joseph) O’Reilly until the courses got bigger and longer,” Hofreuter recalled. O’Reilly, now deceased, served as chaplain at Wheeling Hospital where Hofreuter was chief executive officer.

Hofreuter’s early experiences with both parks laid the groundwork for his 20 years of service on the Wheeling Park Commission. At the end of this month, the 85-year-old Hofreuter will leave the commission, which he said, makes way for someone with a fresh set of eyes and ears on the workings of the two city parks.

The park commission also includes chairman Wilbur “Bill” Jones Jr., members Ogden Nutting, Susan Farnsworth and Joan Stamp. Members of the park commission are appointed by either the Board of Directors of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce or by the city manager. Hofreuter’s replacement will be appointed by City Manager Robert Herron.

Hofreuter said the commission recommended two people to Herron who ultimately makes the appointment. Commission slots are five-year terms with unlimited reappointments. Herron said a decision will be made later this month regarding a new commissioner.

“We always select someone who is a member of the Oglebay Foundation,” Hofreuter explained. “We want someone who knows the parks.”

The Wheeling Park Commission is a West Virginia corporation created by the West Virginia Legislature on March 5, 1935 for the purpose of managing the parks of the city of Wheeling.

As a two-decade member of the non-paying commission post, Hofreuter said he’s been fortunate to have served with very capable administrators including G. Randolph “Randy” Worls, Douglas Dalby and Steve Hilliard. He said Worls remains a legend at Oglebay for his leadership, with Dalby carrying on the tradition until his retirement and, most recently, Hilliard taking on some difficult challenges of operating the park system with a $30 million-plus budget. Hilliard also will be moving on to rejoin his wife in Florida, and to date, his replacement has not been named.

One of the challenges of the park operations remains a downturn in popularity of recreational golf, a mainstay in the parks’ operating budgets. Hofreuter said recent additions at Oglebay have been instituted in an effort to attract new patrons. These include the mountain bike and walking trails, the tube park at the ski area and and the very popular Garden Bistro at Waddington Gardens. There are changes in dining at Wilson Lodge as well that Hofreuter said should appeal to the Wheeling community.

“We are fortunate to have great employees, many who have been here a long time, who maintain the parks. The parks are beautiful and necessary assets to the community,” Hofreuter said.

He also praised the work of fellow park commissioners whom he considers friends as well as colleagues. He expressed gratitude for Nutting’s longevity with the commission — nearly 40 years.

Hofreuter has served the community in other ways as a member of the boards of Wheeling Jesuit University, and his alma mater, The Linsly School. He has served as chairman of the West Virginia Hospital Association. In 2004, Hofreuter was recognized by Gov. Bob Wise and received the 2004 Distinguished West Virginian Award for his work and dedication to improving the medical malpractice issues that faced the state.

Hofreuter is passionate about health care for all West Virginians, and continues to volunteer his time and talents to patients at Health Right in Wheeling. Health Right provides medical and dental care to the working poor and those who cannot afford proper health care coverage.

“It’s where I’m needed and can still use my real skills,” he said.

Jones said Friday that he will miss serving with Hofreuter on the commission.

“We’re going to miss Dr. Hofreuter. He has served the Wheeling area in a variety of capacities,” Jones said. “Personally it has been a pleasure. He is a remarkable individual who has made incredible contributions to the community.”

Jones said Hofreuter’s experience in the business world has been a great asset to the commission.

“Running a park system is a complicated operation. He’s been a real blessing for the commission,” he added.