Hobbs Remembered as an Ambassador for Wheeling
WHEELING — Community leaders in the city of Wheeling are reflecting on the life of a true advocate for the Friendly City who — among many other accomplishments — helped guide Oglebay and Wheeling Park through transformative years and elevate them to the recreational gems they are today.
A lifelong resident of Wheeling, Roland “Ron” Hobbs died at home Tuesday morning at the age of 89.
Hobbs served on a myriad of boards for local organizations over the decades, but is probably best known for his many years of service to the Wheeling Park Commission, for which he first became a member in 1972. He served for a total of 41 years on the commission before retiring at the age of 80 in 2013.
“He and I worked together very well,” G. Randolph “Randy” Worls, chairman emeritus of The Oglebay Foundation, said Tuesday. “He came on the commission the same year I began as CEO. In the mid- to late-’80s, he became chairman of the park commission. We did a fair amount of fundraising and took a lot of trips together.”
Worls said Hobbs was driven to expand the parks and worked hard to make projects happen. One particular project that struck a chord with Hobbs — an avid golfer — was the construction of the Arnold Palmer-designed championship golf course at Oglebay.
“He was very active in the work he did in building the Palmer golf course,” Worls said. “He was very practical and understood the challenges the parks had, particularly with financing. He was very helpful. And we played a lot of golf together. While he was my boss, we were also very good friends.”
Attorney Jim Gardill of Phillips, Gardill, Kaiser & Altmeyer worked with Hobbs in various capacities for many years with the Wheeling Park Commission and on the board of directors at WesBanco.
Hobbs served as president of WesBanco from 1984-87 and took on the role as chairman in 1987.
Gardill joined the WesBanco board in 1980 and served as chairman from 1990 to 2019.
“He had great people skills,” Gardill said. “He was very well-liked and easy to know. The outgoing nature of Ron can be credited to the success he had in his ventures in business and industry throughout his career.”
Gardill said Hobbs truly put his heart into his work and into the many avenues of volunteer service over the decades.
“He was a great advocate for the community — a great goodwill ambassador for Wheeling,” Gardill said.
Hobbs was elected chairman of the Wheeling Park Commission board in 1979 and later helped establish The Oglebay Foundation.
“Ron Hobbs was the longest serving park commissioner,” said former Wheeling Park Commission board chairman Bill Jones, who with Hobbs had terms of service on the board that overlapped for 30 years. “He came on at a time when it became a resort property and a golf destination. Oglebay was really transformed during those years in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.”
Jones said Hobbs led the Wheeling Park Commission in ambitious efforts to help the properties grow and prosper, helping to spearhead the organization to become one of the premiere park operations in the country.
“As chairman, he provided leadership to the park commission that was invaluable to the membership,” Jones said. “He provided superb service to the parks and to the community.”
Former president and CEO of the Wheeling Park Commission Douglas Dalby recalled Hobbs’ attention to details and his high standard when it came to the condition of the parks.
“He had a real sense of maintenance and quality,” Dalby said. “We had many discussions about that over the years. He was a very nice man, and we had a good working relationship. And he loved the parks.”
Members of the Wheeling Rotary Club, where Hobbs was a longtime member, held a moment of silence during their meeting on Tuesday in honor and remembrance of their fellow servant to the community.
Hobbs was a graduate of the Linsly Military Institute and West Virginia University’s College of Commerce. He served in the U.S. Army, was vice president of the Hobbs Lumber Company and founded the Greggsville Land Company before joining the WesBanco board. He was active in many local organizations over the decades, helped found the Wheeling Ironmen football team and was a member of the Lawrencefield Episcopal Church.
A memorial service for Hobbs is scheduled to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 28, at the Lawrencefield Parish Church in Wheeling.