Every morning, Randy Worls wakes up with one thing on his mind: How to continue improving Oglebay and Wheeling parks.
Sixty-four years — about 70 percent of the time that Oglebay has been a park — that’s how long Randy Worls has lived and breathed Oglebay Park.
“When I started working here, there were still six farm workers left over and working in different positions from Waddington Farm, so that sort of puts it back in perspective,” he said. “This has been my life,” Worls said of those 64 years.
On the eve of the park’s 90th birthday, Worls was bestowed yet another lifetime achievement award to put on his shelf — this one from the Oglebay Foundation Board of Directors. He was honored on Friday as the first recipient of the G. Randolph Worls Spirit of Oglebay Award.
Also, Friday morning, Gary and Flip West were presented the first-ever Gary and Flip West Leadership in Philanthropy Award.
The award was “established to honor those individuals with a proven record of exceptional generosity, outstanding civic and charitable responsibility,” said Eriks Janelsins, president and CEO of the Oglebay Foundation. He cited the West Spa and the renovations of the West Family Wing as some of the Wests’ gifts.
“Your deep love of and passion for Oglebay and this community continues to awe,” Janelsins said.
“We love the park,” Gary West said to the more than 100 donors gathered in Glessner Auditorium at Wilson Lodge. “We have to have this park 100 years from now, and I hope you help them in this need as they go forward, as will I. … Keep the money coming into the foundation.”
Flip West added, “Nothing is better than Oglebay Park. … But this weekend, this honor is for Randy. Randy is Mr. Oglebay. This is his time.”
The G. Randolph Worls Spirit of Oglebay Award was “created to honor individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills in supporting the mission of the parks, extraordinary commitment to the community and a champion of the Oglebay ideals,” Janelsins said.
“No job at Oglebay is too big or too small for you, While Randy’s biography will mention the tens of millions raised for the parks, there’s also no one who has picked up more litter at Oglebay Park than Randy Worls. To this day, he can’t walk past a cigarette butt or a gum wrapper without stopping to retrieve it.
“His pride for these parks and what they represent are a lesson for all of us. G. Randolph Worls, thank you for teaching us, each of us what true spirit for an institute looks like when one invests all their considerable time and talent and energy into that place for a lifetime,” Janelsins said.
While Janelsins pointed out that Worls has received a lifetime achievement award from every organization with which he is affiliated, Worls said that none of them “exceeds this.”
Worls thanked his “extremely supportive board,” admitting he didn’t always take the traditional route, but “they put up with it.” He also thanked those in attendance, whom he said “are the ones who have made things work.”
Going back through his history with the park, he pointed to others who have had an impact on his career.
He started with Earl Gaylor, who hired him in 1954. Gaylor was his freshmen basketball coach who went on to be Oglebay’s general manager, then CEO.
It was Gaylor who asked Worls — who was heading to Ohio State for an MBA with a guaranteed job with Dow Chemical — to stay on just for a year to help in Gaynor’s transition to CEO.
“I was tired of going to school and tired of chemistry, quite frankly, and as a result of that, I never went back, and 64 years later, here I am talking about it.”
He talked of Wilbur S. Jones Sr. (the father of Wilbur S. Jones Jr. who is a Wheeling Park Commissioner and member of the Oglebay Foundation board of directors), who helped him “manage the system, and I will always be grateful to him for that.”
Ogden Nutting received a nod from Worls for keeping “the newspapers focused on the parks.” He pointed out that it was Nutting’s grandfather who was responsible for changing the vote for the City of Wheeling to accept Earl W. Oglebay’s gift of land, which then became Oglebay Park.
Some of the others Worls thanked included: Harry Hamm, long-time editor of the Wheeling News-Register; Doug Dalby, who took over as CEO of the park when Worls moved to the Oglebay Foundation; Bill Koegler, the “do-it-all guy” — “anything that was in trouble and had a problem, we sent Bill to fix”; Brooks Wigginton, landscape architect; Gary West, who taught him the “art of negotiation”; Pat Getty, recently retired president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; Dr. Donald Hofreuter, his personal physician as well as his personal consultant; and David Lindelow, park commission president and CEO, who Worls believes is “the right person at the right time to be here.”
“Managing these parks basically has been my life. I totally believe in what we have done. … In closing, one of the major incentives of my current work is to assure donors have enjoyed the park in their lifetime and make planned gifts and remain always connected to this beautiful park system. Planned gifts are the key to sustain these parks in the future. We need each of you to consider your legacy in ways you can make gifts to benefit your family and the community.
“Finally, I’ve always said I want and hope to work until the day comes when I frankly can’t find my way to the office, and, if that would happen, it would just be a wonderful thing. Because every day I wake up and think of nothing but what is the next in improving and getting resources to keep these parks beautiful.”
Friday certainly was a day of giving: of awards, of pats on the back, of thank yous and of the promise of more giving to come.
In fact, Janelsins shared that Gary West pulled him aside while Worls was speaking to tell him of another special gift.
“I think it’s an appropriate way to close an event like this that celebrates philanthropy,” Janelsins said, and revealed, “Gary and Flip have decided that their next major gift they want to make in honor of Randy to help renovate the conference and banquet rooms at Wilson Lodge.”
Janelsins noted, “Charitable gifts … are the key to ensuring that our unique public parks system is known as one of the best in the world, the key to moving the parks forward and ensuring that the gardens, historic buildings, the trails and trees that we enjoy today will be here for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.”
Thanks to the generosity of Gary and Flip West and Randy Worls and his wife, Betty, those keys will be in place to unlock the future of Oglebay and Wheeling parks.
• After nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal has joined Weelunk as managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.
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