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The Hall of Honor

April 6, 2011 - Phyllis Sigal
"In the words of Martins Ferry poet James Wright, 'I began in Ohio and still dream of home,'" is how Dr. Ted Krontiris began his acceptance speech when inducted into the Martins Ferry Hall of Honor on Sunday, April 3.

Krontiris was one of three inducted, along with photographer Jay Stock and Howard J. Grayson.

Grayson, at the time of his death in 2006 was the oldest active fireman in Ohio, having been a member of the Martins Ferry Ladder Company for 70 years.

Grayson's granddaughter Amy Vavrock spoke eloquently about her grandpa, who she described as "an ordinary man who did extraordinary things."

She likened his life to a "cloudburst," that leaves everything "a little brighter, a little greener."

Grayson was a painting contractor and a member of many civic organizations, and in fact had 55 years of perfect attendance as a member of the Martins Ferry Rotary Club. A hospital stay on a Monday is what wrecked his perfect record.

He was also most likely the oldest person to ever have his foot run over by a firetruck — at the age of 80, while still fighting a fire, she said.

Jay Stock's induction into the Hall of Honor is what initially drew my husband and me to the event.

I've known Jay and his work for years.

What an inspiration he is.

At the age of 87, he's still going strong, jaunting around the country taking photographs of a host of interesting subjects.

He's photographed people in every state in the union, not to mention several countries including France, Spain, Africa, Denmark, Haiti and the United Kingdom. He's photographed cowboys in the West; jazz and blues singers in Missouri and Kansas and Wheeling; Eskimos of the Arctic; fishing boats in Maine; tobacco farmers in North Carolina; coal miners in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and West Virginia; and bullfighters, gypsies and milk farmers. More than a dozen Amish families have opened up their homes to him and allowed him to photograph every aspect of their lives.

The list goes on and on ... and so do Jay's accomplishments.

He's a fellow in the British Institute of Professional Photography, the American Society of Photographers, the Royal Society of Arts, and has received numerous awards from photography societies. He is a member of the Photographic Hall of Fame and has received the American Society of Professional Photographers International Award.

His work has been displayed in major museums and the White House. He is the first to have his work exhibited in the U.S. Capitol.

Along with his talents, Jay has a huge heart. He loves to give back.

He's done benefit exhibits for those who suffered losses from Hurricane Katrina and donated images to help the families of coal miners killed in the Sago mine disaster.

He's in the process of trying to raise money for Haiti. He spent a week there photographing its people just before the devastating earthquake hit in 2010.

He'd like to auction off or sell his incredible works of art from his visit and donate the proceeds to the cause ... he's still looking for an outlet for that endeavor.

On a personal note, he's photographed our family's Heritage Music BluesFest in Wheeling for many years, and spent hours one Sunday afternoon taking photos of my daughter Amanda in her ballet attire. As soon as he heard she was engaged last year, he offered to take her bridal portrait.

I am honored to call him my friend.

When Bruce found out that Dr. Krontiris was one of the three inductees, he was ecstatic. Ted was Bruce's math teacher at Martins Ferry High School, and was quite a mentor to him. Of all his teachers at the high school, Bruce said Ted had the biggest impact on him.

He remembers when Ted took the class to the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel computing center. It was a big deal back in 1968 because not many people were talking about the future of computers. Ted thought it important that his freshmen see it. He was way ahead of his times, Bruce recalled.

Bruce noted that the students were impressed that their teacher was on his way to the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, and that he stopped on his path to medicine to spend a year making money and teaching at the school from which he graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1964.

A scientist, Dr. Krontiris earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago and received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He held several positions at the City of Hope in California, eventually becoming director emeritus of the cancer center.

He has conducted medical research for 40 years in the molecular mechanisms giving rise to cancer. He and his colleagues were the first to identify a gene family activated in human tumors and conducted the first large genetic studies on the inherited risk of human cancer.

Krontiris noted how much he appreciated the support of his parents and his community.

"I was fortunate my parents took my dreams seriously." He said his education in Martins Ferry "gave me and my classmates a solid background." He cited several of his teachers for preparing him well for his future endeavors.

Dr. Krontiris said the presentation on Sunday was a wonderful gift ... "two gifts," he said, including the "gift of remembrance."

"When the letter arrived, it released a deluge of memories."

And when he dreams of home, he dreams of the hills, he said, and noted that many of his memories involved a hill in his hometown.

After the ceremony, Dr. Krontiris again inspired my husband; this time to drive around the hills above Martins Ferry. And Jay inspired me to get a few shots of them. All we needed was a quick little cloudburst to complete the picture.


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Blog Photos

Dr. Ted Krontiris, left, and Jay Stock