Like most communities across the nation, Logan County faced a lot of challenges in 2020.
What began as a relatively quiet year in January and February quickly changed in March as the global coronavirus pandemic gripped both the nation and the world. Despite the pandemic’s challenges, Logan County still had a share of several new businesses open, and locals remain hopeful for the future.
CoronavirusLike everywhere else in the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic dominated headlines in Logan County throughout 2020. The county’s first case was recorded March 25 — about two weeks after it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. In the nine months since, the county’s cumulative number of cases has climbed to more than 1,600.
On April 11, 25-year-old Teddy Nelson became Logan County’s first casualty from complications related to the virus. Nelson’s untimely death was a shock to many, and friends and family mourned him with a teddy bear tribute in front of Logan High School, where he graduated from in 2013.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Logan County are now nearing 60 and include some other well-known community members, such as Larry Coffindaffer, who succumbed to the virus on Sept. 17 at the age of 77. A resident of Hidden Valley, Coffindaffer was a dedicated member of the Chapmanville community in numerous youth sports activities.
Logan County was able to mostly restrict the spread of the virus to travel-related cases until July 6, when a sharp spike in community spread cases began that would last until September. During the surge, cases spread rapidly throughout two of the county’s medical institutions — the Trinity Healthcare nursing home and Logan Regional Medical Center — with more than 30 employees at LRMC diagnosed with the virus at one point.
When the West Virginia Department of Education first released its weekly color-coded county map, Logan County was one of the first counties to be labeled as red, prompting the county’s school officials to begin the academic year Sept. 8 on an entirely remote basis.
After around three weeks of remote learning, a group of county students took to protests in front of the Logan County Schools’ central administrative office in Aracoma, demanding to be back in school and able to play sports like their peers in neighboring counties. After a series of meetings, members of the Logan County Board of Education voted Sept. 22 to transition back to in-person learning under a two-day blended model on Sept. 28.
In November, with the county’s caseload declining, school officials opted to transition the county’s elementary schools back to a four-day model instead of two, with middle schools to follow on Dec. 7 and high schools on Jan. 4, 2021. Those plans have been halted for now, however, as Logan County deals with another sharp surge in cases that health department director Steve Browning has attributed to a large community spread that occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The pandemic also had a great impact on local sports, perhaps most notably the Chapmanville Regional High School Tigers boys basketball team, whose chances of a historic “three-peat” championship season will never be known. The Tigers played their last regular season game against the Logan High School Wildcats on March 6 at Mingo Central High School, defeating the Wildcats 57-51 in the sectional championship.
Less than a week later on March 12, all high school sports were called off by Gov. Jim Justice.
A community mourns
In February, the Chapmanville community mourned the loss of Mayor Raamie Barker, 73, and legendary coach Ted Ellis, 79. The two died less than a week apart. Barker was eventually succeeded by councilman Joel McNeely in July after being chosen by other council members.
On March 24, Harold Cheyenne Dingess of Rocky Branch, near Chapmanville, was killed in a vehicle crash at the Old Logan Road exit off U.S. 119. He was 23.
On May 18, Alec Griffin of Logan died from complications related to injuries he sustained in an ATV accident on May 15. He was 20.
On June 7, Nick Bonelli of McConnell died at home. He was 26.
Following Bonelli’s death, his friends began a fundraiser to build a memorial skate park in his honor, along with Logan native Phillip Austin Ward, who died Dec. 10, 2019, at age 28. The Bonelli-Ward Memorial Skate Park project eventually raised more than $15,000 and attracted the attention of the Skatepark Project, an organization founded by professional skateboarder Tony Hawk.
Logan’s faith community also lost a longtime leader with the death of Dr. Charles M. Wood II, who died March 11 at his home in Woodstock, Virginia. Wood was pastor of the First Christian Church in Logan from 1986 until 2009. The Wood family would also lose sons Chris, 53, of Logan on July 17, and Thomas “Mark,” 51, of South Point, Ohio, on Oct. 16.
In the community
Despite the pandemic, the annual West Virginia Freedom Festival — complete with carnival rides, food vendors and music entertainment — was conducted July 1-4. Although it was originally scheduled for the week prior, state guidelines forced the festival dates to be moved.
The city’s decision to hold the festival in 2020 proved somewhat controversial. While support was high in May when city leaders decided to give it the greenlight, many attitudes soured days before the festival. Social media was flooded with comments accusing city leaders of caring only about money, while leaders pushed back, saying they do not make money from the festival.
The festival had an estimated 30% reduction in attendance this year, according to Mayor Serafino Nolletti. On July 20, nearly three weeks after the festival, the Logan County Health Department announced that no traceable cases of COVID-19 were linked to the festival.
Elsewhere in the county, the town of Man cancelled its annual street fair, and Chapmanville cancelled its annual Apple Butter Festival. Local theater companies The Aracoma Story, Inc., and Southern Coalition for the Arts also cancelled the year’s performance seasons.
Just prior to the pandemic on Feb. 29, the Wallace Horn Friendly Neighbor Show recorded its first programs in nearly two years during a live performance at the Tracy Vickers Community Center in Chapmanville. The recording featured a performance by Lincoln County labor singer-songwriter Elaine Purkey, who later succumbed to complications related to COVID-19 on Sept. 2. She was 71.
The community also had its share of giving and goodwill in 2020.
On March 26, Premium Towing, a local wrecker service, surprised the Whitman family of Willard and Nancy Ball when they delivered a fully reconditioned 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan to the couple. The act of kindness came after Premium Towing owner Jessie Elliott realized the family’s current vehicle was unsuitable for driving.
With a global pandemic, the holidays were a time of giving more than ever this year. On Thanksgiving, Hot Cup owner Michael Cline and girlfriend Gwendolyn Rainwater delivered more than 50 dinners to those in need.
During the Christmas season, numerous toy drives were able to put smiles on the faces of children around the area, even if COVID-19 rules required creativity.
2020 was a year of numerous infrastructure projects and woes throughout Logan County, especially in the school system.
On Feb. 24, a crane removed the press box from the 60-year-old bleachers at Logan High School’s Willis-Nisbet Football Stadium in anticipation of replacing the aging bleachers. Less than a month later, the bleachers were demolished.
By August, the new set of bleachers were installed on the field, but they have yet to be used to full capacity.
Man High School’s George A. Queen Memorial Stadium also received a much-needed upgrade for its scoreboard. The former scoreboard, which school officials had estimated to be around 30 years old, had been severely bent by what appeared to be strong winds.
Within the city of Logan, crews repaired numerous water leaks in 2020, including two in almost the same spot. Thanks to reimbursement funding from the federal CARES Act, the city was able to buy a new excavator to aid in such repairs.
City council also approved a project to install all-new water meters throughout the city.
Perhaps the biggest infrastructure project to be completed was the new boulevard bridge, which began in January 2019. A grand opening date for the bridge is still yet to be determined.
Businesses open and close
Despite the pandemic, Logan County welcomed several new businesses in 2020, including:
- Southern Delightful Charms and Wears jewelry store, Logan
- Brick’s Cuts barbershop, Logan
- Near Me Furniture Rentals, Logan
- Yamato Japanese Steakhouse, Fountain Place Mall, Logan
- Vintage Sisters antique store, West Logan
- The Broken Axle at the Appalachian Outpost, Lyburn
In September, Courtney Quick announced plans to completely refurbish the old Logan Corporation building into a multifaceted tourist attraction complete with a restaurant, distillery, bar, event center and lodging.
Logan County also lost several businesses this year. One of the first was Save-A-Lot along Holden Road, which closed its doors in January after being open since 1990.
On March 3, store employees and city officials celebrated the switch from Peebles to Gordmans in downtown Logan with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Gordmans filed for bankruptcy just two months later, citing losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The store liquidated all their items and closed in June.
The pandemic’s effects were also too much for the buffet-style Gatti’s Pizza at the Fountain Place Mall, which closed for good in December.
Another notable business that closed its doors in 2020 was the Chapmanville branch of Chase Bank at Airport Road.
Of course, no recap of 2020 would be complete without mentioning the elections.
Logan Sheriff Sonya M. Dingess Porter (R) was ineligible to run again due to term limits. On general night Nov. 3, the race between Republican Chris Trent and Democrat Paul “P.D.” Clemens was tight. It appeared that Trent might win; however, once all 36 precincts and absentee votes were tallied, Clemens — a former state trooper and City of Logan police chief — won the race.
On Jan. 14, Dr. Ed White announced his resignation from the Logan County Board of Education to mount a bid for Logan County Commission as a Democrat. The board appointed Harold McMillen, who was running for a seat on the LCBOE at the time, to replace White.
During the general election, White faced off against businesswoman Diana Barnette (R), which she handily won. She replaces retiring commissioner Willie Akers (D), who served in the seat since 1998.
In the nonpartisan race for LCBOE, McMillen was able to retain the seat he was appointed to, along with incumbent Barry Mullins.
In the nonpartisan race for Logan County Magistrate, former city of Logan police officer David Adkins defeated challenges from former magistrate Jeff Lane and Trace Fork resident Randy Brewer. Adkins replaced Leonard Codispoti, who retired after serving since 1981.
In the race for Logan County Prosecuting Attorney, Democrat David Wandling defeated independent candidate Joe Spradling, who entered the race late in July. Wandling replaces retiring Prosecuting Attorney John Bennett, who had served in the seat since 2008.
One of the most talked about stories of the general election season happened Oct. 11, when a large parade in support of President Donald Trump (R) rolled through Logan. Led by West Virginia Senate 7 Republican candidate Rupie Phillips, the parade lasted around 15 minutes and included approximately 269 vehicles.
Phillips and other Republican candidates would lead another massive gathering at the Fountain Place Mall on Nov. 1, the Sunday before the general election. Two days later, Phillips would go on to defeat Democrat Ralph Rodighero by a margin of about 4,570 votes.
In the House District 24 race, Republican candidates Jordan Bridges of Logan and Margitta Mazocchi of Chapmanville emerged victorious, defeating Democratic candidates Susan Shelton Perry and incumbent Tim Tomblin, both of Logan.
Other notable happenings in Logan County in 2020 include the county commission’s passing of a resolution to become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” in January, and a Black Lives Matter protest through downtown Logan in June as part of thousands of similar demonstrations in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.