Bishop Donahue To Induct Five in Hall of Fame
McMECHEN — For the first time in over a decade, Bishop Donahue Memorial High School is proud to expand its Athletic Hall of Fame with a remarkable group of five athletic greats, along with two legendary contributors.
The five athletic stars — Tim Popicg, Gary Fonner, Steve Mele, Shawn Straughn and Tony Reilly — will be honored Saturday before the boys’ varsity basketball game in McMechen against W.Va.-ranked Clarksburg Notre Dame. They will also be feted with a reception in the school cafeteria afterwards. Also honored, posthumously, are long-time contributors Fr. Raymond D. Jablinske and Thomas R. “Dino” Smith.
During the decade of the 2000’s, Donahue had honored several past athletic greats, coaches and contributors.
Bishop Donahue Principal Tom Wise said is “loosely called the Athletic Wall of Fame. We thought we needed a more formal structure. We thought we’d just scratched the surface and decided on a more formal type format.”
Fr. Jablinske was in the first graduating class of Bishop Donahue in 1959 and was a lifelong friend of the school and students there. He attended Wheeling Jesuit College, Providence College (RI), and St. Mary’s Seminary (Md.), and was ordained to the priesthood in 1968. His parishes included St. Agnes Catholic Church (Charleston, W.Va.), Our Lady of Fatima (Huntington), St. Francis Xavier (Parkersburg), Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Point Pleasant), and Our Lady of Peace (Wheeling).
He was a recipient of the Bishop’s Cross Award in 1997, of the Marcellin Champagnat Award in 2000, and was an inaugural member of the Bishop Donahue Hall of Fame in 2000. Interestingly, he helped to write the Bishop Donahue alma mater, and the gymnasium of the school is named in his honor.
Dino Smith hailed from the famous Smith family of Benwood and was a lifelong friend and fan of Bishop Donahue. He started serving the school and its students in the early 1980’s as manager of the boys’ basketball team, and soon thereafter also became manager of the football team. He spent his entire adult life assisting in any Donahue extra curricular activity, especially athletics. He wore his love for the school with unending, heartfelt pride, and was as beloved by the students as anyone who ever walked the halls at Bishop Donahue.
“That was his life,” his brother, Jim Smith said. “He loved being around the kids.” After his passing, the school honored his life and service by dedicating the Bishop Donahue gym floor as it’s now named “Tommy ‘Dino’ Smith Memorial Court.” That same year, in 2013, the school established the “Tommy ‘Dino’ Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund” in his memory. Dino was a member of the St. John Catholic Church, and served in both the Benwood and McMechen Volunteer Fire Depts.
Tim Popicg, class of 1972, was one of the first true three-sport giants at Bishop. In football, Popicg was named all-W.Va. Catholic Schools his senior season after quarterbacking the Bishops to the State Catholic Championship against Madonna. In baseball, he was named all-W.Va. Catholic Schools as a junior and senior, and made the all-tournament team in the state Catholic tournament both years as well. It was in basketball, however, that Popicg really dominated. He scored 1,509 career points, averaging 31.2 ppg as a junior, then 25 ppg as a senior when Donahue won the OVAC Class A championship. He was also named to the state Catholic all-tournament team both seasons, with a tourney-record of 42 points in one memorable game.
Popicg signed a basketball scholarship at Southern Illinois University after his senior season, ended up graduating from West Liberty University, before receiving his MBA from Wheeling Jesuit.
He is owner of an AllState Insurance agency in Wheeling, and, along with coaching youth baseball and basketball, is a board member of the YMCA.
Gary Fonnner, class of 1978, was perhaps the most gifted and entertaining athlete to ever grace the halls of Bishop Donahue. As a wide receiver/defensive back in football, Fonner earned All-OVAC honors and duplicated that feat with similar honors in baseball as a centerfielder/pitcher. He had speed and strength rarely seen in a player 5-11, 160 pounds. But it was in basketball that Fonner really turned heads. Playing over the rim and often times on the edge of reality, Fonner scored 1,172 career points in two years, averaging 33.4 ppg as a senior, along with 13 rebounds, five assists, and four steals. He scored 55 points one game, still a Marshall County high school scoring record, and had 49 points in a memorable match against Sistersville at the Wheeling Civic Center, still the record for that building. He was named All-OVAC Captain, All-Valley Captain, and first-team all-state captain. He was named OVAC Athlete of the Year in 1978, and was selected by The Intelligencer as one of the OVAC’s top 100 Athletes of the 20th Century, the only Bishop Donahue athlete named. He earned a basketball scholarship to Wheeling Jesuit and is a resident of McMechen.
Steve Mele, class of 1980, blazed a trail of football excellence unmatched in the annals of Bishop Donahue. The regular tailback for three years — and also a defensive standout — Mele rushed for a school-record 4,210 career yards, including an amazing 2,311 yards his senior season when he led Donahue to the W.Va. Class A championship game. He was second in the nation in rushing that season to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. He was honored that year with the school’s prestigious Dick Kerwood Award, and was named All-Valley Captain and all-state captain at running back. Mele earned a football scholarship to Oklahoma State University and later played at West Liberty University. In the 1990’s, Mele turned to handball and was equally adept, winning the national YMCA Handball Championship in 1994. He was the top-ranked handball player in his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh from 1993-98.
Shawn Straughn, class of 1986, was a tower of power at Bishop Donahue in both football and basketball. In football, Straughn was a phenomenal performer at quarterback, safety and punter. He earned first-team All-Valley and all-OVAC honors as a junior, then duplicated that feat his senior season along with being named first-team all-state. As a senior, he threw for over 1,000 yards and added seven rushing touchdowns. He had 11 career interceptions and led the OVAC in punting as a senior. In basketball, Straughn was the starting center on the 1985 W.Va. Class A championship team. He averaged 20 points and 13.2 rebounds that year, then followed with a senior season of 22.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. A three-year starter, Straughn finished with 1,246 points and was named first-team all-OVAC and All-Valley as a junior and senior (All-Valley captain his senior season), and was second-team all-state as a junior and first-team as a senior.
Straughn earned a basketball scholarship from Wheeling Jesuit in great marriage for both parties. Now a WJU Hall of Famer and one of just two basketball players to have his jersey number retired at the school, Straughn helped Wheeling Jesuit to the NAIA Final Four in 1989. He was a two-time All-West Virginia Conference honoree, and two-time all-tournament honoree as well. He finished his career with 1,920 points, second all-time at WJU, and 1,110 rebounds, still the school record. Straughn graduated from WJU with a criminal justice degree and is currently the Administrator of the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville.
Tony Reilly, class of 1989, was a three-sport phenom who stirred up a storm no matter what the season. In baseball, the versatile Reilly played several positions and helped his team to the state tournament as a senior. As a junior, he threw a no-hitter in the sectional tournament and earned post-season honors of all-OVAC and All-Valley first team, and all-state second team. As a senior, he earned first-team honors on all three squads. In basketball, Reilly was a star on the 1989 team that banged and hustled its way to the state championship game. The ultra-quick and aggressive guard was named all-tournament for his efforts, and was also named all-OVAC, All-Valley and all-state first team. Remarkably, football may have been his best sport. At linebacker, Reilly ranks among the very best in Bishop Donahue history as a sideline-to-sideline hitman. He was also a standout running back, and still owns the school single-game record of 311 yards against Morgantown St. Francis. He was named all-OVAC, All-Valley and all-state first team after his final season. A resident of N. Charleston, S.C., Reilly has helped coach baseball and wrestling in his adopted community.
Interestingly, all five athletic honorees hail from Benwood, as does Dino Smith.
Previous honorees include (2002) Dick Kerwood, John Flading, Kelly Swierkos, Tom Giovengo, Herman Conti; (2003) George Bilich, Dave Kady; (2004) Tom Tribett, Brother Dan O’Riordan; (2005) Jim Welsh; (2006) Rick Blake and David Cisar.