Editor's Note: Gems of the Valley is a regular feature of the The Parkersburg News and Sentinel/The Marietta Times highlighting residents who do wonderful things for the community. Nominations can be sent to 519 Juliana St., Parkersburg WV 26101, faxed to 304-485-5122 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PARKERSBURG - For Dave Cyrus, working to raise funds for community projects has become a way of life.
Most recently he has been involved with the Dave Couch Golf Tournament, a local event set up to raise funds for ALS research in honor of the late Wood County Commissioner Dave Couch
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Dave Cyrus has been organizing the annual Dave Couch Golf Tournament at the Parkersburg Country Club for the past 14 years.
Cyrus moved to the Mid-Ohio Valley in 1974 from Woodbridge, Va., when he worked for the National Guard. He retired in 2004 and works for the Guard as a contractor to help people who were in the military find jobs.
Originally from St. Albans, W.Va., in Kanawha County, he graduated from St. Albans High School in 1966 and then graduated from the University of Charleston in 1992 with a degree in management.
Cyrus said he began playing golf when he 18 or 19 years old.
A Little Back Story...
* Dave Cyrus moved to the Mid-Ohio Valley in 1974 from Woodbridge, Va., when he worked for the National Guard.
* He is a native of St. Albans, W.Va., in Kanawha County, graduating from St. Albans High School in 1966 and then graduated from the University of Charleston in 1992 with a degree in management.
* Most recently he has been involved with the Dave Couch Golf Tournament, a local event set up to raise funds for ALS research in honor of the late Wood County Commissioner Dave Couch
"I used to play with my dad and his brothers," he said. "We used to walk and play anywhere from 36 to 54 holes of golf a day."
Cyrus said at one time it was just him, his dad and his two brothers playing golf and later they were joined by a few cousins.
"It was a family affair thing," he said. "We were able to spend time with my relatives and have fun and carry on and it became a challenge to beat my uncle and my dad."
Cyrus said during the last five years he has volunteered at a number tournaments like the 84 Classic in Uniontown, Pa., and the Greenbrier Classic at the Greenbrier Resort. Most recently he has been helping special needs visitors.
Although he is involved in a number of golf tournaments he calls his golf "attempting to play golf."
"I play with a group on Wednesday nights and we have a traveling group that goes to golf courses around the state," he said. "We play in Ohio, we go down to Columbia, S.C."
Cyrus said he got involved with the Dave Couch Golf Tournament after Couch was diagnosed with ALS. Cyrus was recognized as a Gem of the Valley by Judy Sjostedt, executive director of the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation.
"I knew Dave before he ever got sick," Cyrus said. "His daughter and my daughter went to school together and graduated together."
Cyrus said Couch was one of the first people he met when he came to Parkersburg.
"He is probably one of the only people that I ever met that I can say I never heard him say anything bad about anybody," he said. "He was always positive, upbeat. He never said anything negative around me - to me that is a very privileged person to do that."
Cyrus said when he learned Couch had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, he was part of a group who asked if they could start a golf tournament in his name to benefit those with ALS and he told them he would not object.
"The only thing he told us was when it got to the point it was not fun no more, he didn't want us to do it," he said. "We are 14 years into it and we're still having fun.
"It's one of the few tournaments in town that is sold out every year. My goal is, and God willing, is to run this tournament for 20 years."
Cyrus added he will do as much as he can for as long as he can.
"There might be a day when some may decide they want someone new to run it because they might have different ideas," he said. "If they do that. they can do it but I'll still play in it and donate to it."
Cyrus said there is too much work on the tournament for one person to do. He said the committee behind the tournament makes it all possible. He said some of the members are D.R. Smith, Russ Balderson, Dan Wharton, Larry Martin, Mike Earl and Jerry Parkins who have been involved from the start.
"They have been outstanding in helping," he said. "Dan is the one who got the car dealers to come on as a corporate sponsor along with United Bank, Bowles and Rice, Tri-State Roofing and bought all the shirts.".
Cyrus said in memory of Martin he may be involved in another tournament in his honor to support junior golfing across the state.
Cyrus said the money raised goes to the Parkersburg Community Foundation and then the Couch family decides how much money will go to the ALS-Lou Gehrig Foundation.
"All the money we raise goes to ALS one way or another," he said. "It goes to the closet fund to proved for needed items in Columbus or Charleston."
Cyrus said he was familiar with ALS when he got involved with the tournament.
"I have had friends stricken with this horrible disease before," he said. "I've seen five or six die from this and that's why I'm involved with it."
Cyrus said since Couch enjoyed golfing it was the right choice to set up a golf event in his memory.
"I'd say 80 percent of the people who play in this tournament are members at the Parkersburg Country Club and they played golf with him at one time or another," he said. "Being the type of person I said he was, everybody enjoyed being around him. I could never say enough about how great a person Dave Couch was."
Cyrus said the 2015 edition will be at the same time it has been from the start, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. After a final meeting to go over the amount raised and expenses, they take a break from work on the tournament each year.
"We go on a break from May to December and then we hit it full-fledged," he sad. "We meet once a month to get the details up and keep track of our sponsors who sent money in and who has not and knock on a few doors."
Working on the tournament was not the first time he worked on a project to raise money for a local cause.
"I got started a long time ago with the road run for Special Olympics," he said. "It's led from one thing to another from the lighting on the fields at Rosemar for Vienna Recreation to the football field for Jackson Middle School. One thing just led to another."
Cyrus said there are other projects he has helped and it is something he enjoys.
"My wife can't understand how I can go up to someone and ask them to buy a ticket or make a donation," he said. "I guess it's a gift God gave me and I took it and ran with it."
Because of his experiences he said he has been told he needs to be involved in fundraising work full time.
Cyrus said his wife Linda worked at Public Debt, they have two daughters and a son and eight grandchildren.
"She has been very supportive of these events and anything I've taken on and always backed me 100 percent," he said.
They are active with the Ohio Valley Ski Club and both have been president at one time. Cyrus is a member of the board of the Boys and Girls Club Foundation and Vienna Recreation.