Magnolia to Pay Tribute to Seven Former Athletes

NEW MARTINSVILLE – Seven former student-athletes from four decades will be honored at the 29th annual Magnolia Athletic Boosters Life Achievement Awards Banquet.

The public event will be Saturday, Aug. 2 at Magnolia High School. A social hour starts at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6. Tickets will be available at Witschey’s in New Martinsville or from banquet chairman Brent Gamble at (304) 455-3234.

The honorees, listed by graduation year and hometowns, follow:

David Mullett (1956) of Lake Charles, La.; James Burgbacher (1961) of Tucson, Ariz.; Debby Book Stewart (1970) of Raleigh. N.C.; Keith Thornton (1971) of Gainesville, Fla.; Thomas Jones (1972) of Morgantown; Larry Lemon (1974) of New Martinsville; and Kent Pilant (1991) of New Martinsville.

Capsule summaries of the honorees:

Mullett – He was a four-year football player and three-year varsity letterman. The Blue Eagles went 7-3 in his senior season. He also competed in basketball two years.

He worked his entire career from 1957-2001 with PPG Industries at Natrium, Pittsburgh and Lake Charles, La., where he finished his career from 1998-2001 as Procurement Manager. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from West Virginia University in 1965.

Burgbacher – He was a four-year basketball player and a member of the school’s first state championship squad, the 1961 Class AA boys’ basketball team. He also competed two years in track and one year in baseball. After earning a B.A. degree from West Virginia, he graduated in 1969 with a Doctor of Medicine from Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, Va. He had a private Psychiatry practice and was a staff member at Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital in Johnstown, Pa., from 1973-94 and a private practice and staff member at Danville Regional Medical Center in Danville, Va., from 1994-2007. From 2007-12, he served as Medical Director of the Southern Arizona VA Health Care Systems.

Stewart – She was a four-year cheerleader before enrolling at West Virginia where she also served four years as a cheerleader and squad captain in 1973-74. She graduated in Marketing in 1974. Active in varsious fundraising events, she has also served as a cheerleading competition judge in West Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey. She has work experience in teaching plus real estate and retail sales.

Thornton – The current school record holder in the pole vault, he became the first 14-foot vaulter in the Ohio Valley and West Virginia and broke records in two state Class AA meets with marks of 13-5 1/2 and 13-8. He also competed in football as a senior. He competed two years at West Virginia, where he earned a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1976. He retired earlier this year after 26 years with PCS Phosphate working in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, overseas in Jordan, and the last two years as Vice President of Operations in Illinois.

Jones – He was a four-year football and track athlete and was football team co-captain as a senior when he earned the Gerald Hammel Sportsmanship Award. At Bethany College, he was a two-year football letterman and received a Mining Engineering degree from West Virginia in 1976. He has worked in the mining industry for 36 years, and since 2004 has been Manager of Engineering and Environmental Affairs for Arch Coal. Earlier, he worked for Chesapeake Energy, Zeni Drilling and Amax Coal.

Lemon – He was a three-year baseball player and also competed in basketball one season. A 1978 graduate in Political Science from West Liberty, he served eight years as an Administrative Assistant at W.Va. Northern Community College in New Martinsville. He worked 24 years as the 25-county Northern Area Coordinator for U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller with a regional office in Fairmont. He was appointed to the Wetzel County Commission in January of 2013 and is a member of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Pilant – A four-year track and football competitor, he led the Blue Eagles to their first of 10 state Class AA track titles in 1991 when he was the all-class meet’s top scorer with 31 points, winning three events including both hurdles, the 400 meters in record time, plus the 200-meter sprint. He graduated from Glenville State in Health and Accounting in 1997 after setting school records in five events and being named WVIAC Track Athlete of the Year and NAIA All-America in 1995. He was inducted into the Glenville Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year. He served on the Blue Eagle track coaching staff from 1997-2006 during a four state-title period and is currently employed by Mark West Energy.