WELLSVILLE - Started eight years ago as a way "say thanks to the people who made Wellsville a great place to grow up," the Legends feature has returned this year in new venue, as part of the annual Italian Festival, which will conclude its three-day run tonight.
Founder Eric "Hootch" Shepherd started the Riverside Reunion in 2006 as a member of the local Elks organization and wanted to add a Legends feature that year, but it never got off the ground.
The next year, even though four of the 10 people he had planned to honor the previous year had died, Shepherd said he was not going to be denied and held the Legends presentation, honoring the deceased ones as well as new people.
He began keeping track of anyone from the village who died between reunions and made a video with their names, but Shepherd admitted, "I was scared to death the first time I did it."
That first year, the names of several young residents were on the video when it showed.
"Talk about stopping a party in its tracks. As the tribute was playing, you could hear people crying. I hid in the bushes and was mortified," Shepherd recollected. "The thing went on for about 12 minutes. When it was over, there was dead silence."
Five to be honored at Legends event
By JO ANN BOBBY-GILBERT
WELLSVILLE - Five people who have made a difference to the village will be honored at 7 p.m. tonight during the Sons of Italy's Italian Festival as part of a Legends presentation.
To be honored as 2014 Legends are Joe Scarabino, Frank Fusco, Ralph Fusco, Perry Daniels Sr. and Phyllis Metz.
Scarabino was in his 14th year as chief of the village police department when he died May 8, having served 34 years with the department, where he started the Crime Watch program and a program for troubled youth.
More than 5,000 people attended his calling hours in the high school gym.
Brothers Frank and Ralph Fusco, also both deceased, were avid community supporters their entire lives.
Frank was a retired Wellsville assistant fire chief who served 29 years with the department, a city council member and president, charter member of the Lions and Jaycees, basketball and football official and a baseball commissioner.
The former owner of The Town Hall and The Trophy Shop, Ralph was involved in "anything to do with Wellsville athletics," according to Legends founder Eric Shepherd.
Shepherd said Metz is "just a beloved Wellsville figure," who remembers everyone's birthday, anniversary, graduation year and other special occasions, buying countless gifts for people's children for all the holidays.
"Wellsville just wouldn't be Wellsville without Phyllis Metz," he said.
Perry Daniels Sr. was a long-time Wellsville police officer, a city administrator and owner of his own plumbing shop. He was instrumental in construction of the Jim Kenney Marina.
A dinner for all past Legends and their families will be held at 6 p.m. today in the SOI on Main Street, followed at 7 p.m. by an award ceremony at the outdoor stage for the new Legends, with a video presentation of past and present honorees.
To date, 34 people have been named as Legends with the five new names to be added at tonight's presentation.
Someone handed him a microphone and said, "You better say something," so Shepherd explained his idea behind the tribute and said if people thought it was improper, to let him know.
"They all applauded, and the ones most affected by it thanked me," So that became a big part of the Riverside Reunion," Shepherd said, admitting, however, that it became depressing for him to sit down each day and look through the obituaries for Wellsville names.
The Legends was included in the 2010 Alumni Reunion, but after that, Shepherd found it took time from his family and children, so he quit everything.
Last year, members of the SOI asked him to make the Legends part of the Italian Festival this year, and he agreed, adding a dinner feature for the families of those who have been honored.
"It's a good thing. It brings families together. And it makes people realize that what they contributed to the town was not forgotten. And that's that reason I started it anyway: Just to say thanks to the people who made Wellsville a great place to grow up."