DOBSON — In so many ways, the 10th induction ceremony for the Surry County Sports Hall of Fame was a reunion of old friends.
A number of the members of the Hall’s Class of 2016 spoke about how they had known each other in the past, either as teammates, coaching colleagues, or just as acquaintances. One admitted to a crush on a fellow inductee, back when they were both in high school more than 50 years ago, and then he cited another fellow member of this year’s class as one of the best players he ever coached. One of them already has a former teammate and a daughter in the Hall of Fame. Another has a niece playing for the same high school that she once starred at.
And last but not least, a state championship winning team reunited on stage, 15 years after winning it all. The 2001-01 East Surry Lady Cardinals still looked like they could suit up and take an opponent to school if such a team stepped to them.
Joining the past inductees into the Hall of Fame, and getting their names engraved on a monument at Fisher River Park an hour earlier, were Brenda Wall Bledsoe, Steven Caudill, David Diamont, Tommy George, Vickie Hardy and Will Holthouser. Joining East Surry’s heroines of 15 years ago in the Ring of Honor was David Beal, the announcer for Mount Airy High School baseball and football, who has also played an important role in sports in the rest of Surry County.
Those in attendance at the Surry Community College auditorium were welcomed by Daniel White, the Director of the Surry County Parks and Recreation Department. White stated that while he has only lived in Surry County for six years, it is now his home, and “one of the most amazing places I’ve ever lived.” White praised the county for its commitment to advancing the cause of sports and spoke about how sports are very active throughout the county.
Ms. Linda Davis of the Hall of Fame Committee introduced each inductee.
Ms. Bledsoe, the first inductee, was a star basketball player for Copeland High School from 1956-60. She joins Copeland High teammate Faye Danley Hudson, who was inducted a year ago, and her daughter Melanie, a 2014 inductee, and said she was very proud to have received the honor herself. Later in the ceremony, she was complimented by Diamont, who was a high school athlete at a rival school during the same era. The current East Surry coach admitted that he “had a crush on her for a long time. She could flat-out play basketball.” She thanked her former coach, the late Lonnie Bledsoe, who directed Copeland to victories over several larger schools during those years, even though, as it was stated during the ceremony, “gyms were big and large like barns and heated by two coal furnaces on either side” in those days.
Caudill, a standout at Elkin High School and then at Gardner-Webb University between 2003 and 2011, said he began swimming with the Elkin Wet Lightning at age 9, and spoke at length about how great a commitment he and his teammates made to the sport. However, he also said that it gave him focus in his life, speaking at one point about he solved math problems that were giving him trouble while swimming in the pool. After graduating from college, he went on to be a graduate assistant in Florida State’s nationally ranked swimming program, and has now come full circle, as a coach with the Wet Lightning.
After Diamont praised Bledsoe, he went on to describe fellow inductee Tony George, one of his former players, as the “best defensive back I ever coached.” He credited his wife Debbie with making his illustrious coaching career, which includes 280 victories as a head coach at Mount Airy and with the Cardinals, possible.
“My wife Debbie has given up many opportunities for me to coach high school football,” he said. “Debbie, I love you.”
George followed him to the podium and asked for a moment of silence for his father Brooks George, who had passed away six years earlier to the day. He offered many reminisces of Diamont, Eddie Wilmoth, and former Mount Airy football coaches Eddie Cobb and Jerry Hollingsworth, all of whom he either played for or coached alongside.
Hardy, who is already a member of the North Carolina Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame, thanked seven people who wrote letters on her behalf to be inducted in her home county. She also mentioned her niece, Kaylee Freed, who couldn’t attend the ceremony. At that very moment, she was busy playing a strong game as her North Surry volleyball team advanced to the elite eight of the 2A state volleyball playoffs.
Holthouser, a multi-sport star with Elkin from 1965-68 who later played for Wake Forest when the Demon Deacons won the 1970 ACC football title, joked that he held the WFU record for “most consecutive years without a diploma” and said that he didn’t understand why his wife, Betty, whom he praised for her support of his career “didn’t decline the penalty” rather than marry him. Like many of the other inductees, he credited those coaches he played for and worked with, stating that “they are in my Hall of Fame.”
Following the inductions, Beal and then the East Surry team were inducted into the Ring of Honor, with each of the Lady Cardinals called to the front. They huddled up like the did during their 28-3 championship season and broke it with the same cheer they had used 15 years ago.
In addition to the 2016 inductees, Brent and Linda Steelman of the Class of 2015, who had been unable to attend last year, were introduced and spoke to the audience as well.
See future editions of the Mount Airy News for more on the 2016 inductees.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.