Cates enjoys return to Parkersburg High School

Chris Cates first visit to Parkersburg since 1983 was special.

Cates, a 1980 graduate of Parkersburg High School, was inducted into the PHS Football Hall of Fame on Sept. 13 at Stadium Field before the Big Reds game against Woodrow Wilson of Beckley.

Cates told me this week it was a great honor to be inducted into the PHS hall of fame. Cates, 57, of Leona, Texas, was an all-state defensive tackle at PHS and a member of the 1978 and ’79 football teams.

The 1978 team defeated DuPont High School, 6-0, to win the Class AAA state championship.

Cates remembers that game well.

“It was an emotional, physical, demanding game,” he said. “I was about to collapse.”

As Cates recalls, the Big Reds were not favored to win the game against the former Kanawha County high school.

Cates made the 17 1/2-hour drive from Texas to Parkersburg this month with his wife, Sandy, and their foster daughter Lidia, 9, to attend the induction. This was Sandy’s first visit to West Virginia and Lidia had never been out of Texas.

Sandy enjoyed seeing the architecture of PHS and the Victorian-style houses in Parkersburg.

Chris went to lunch with former PHS football teammates and talked with his former coaches Buddy James and Larry Rhodes. Cates played in the North-South All-Star Football Classic.

James had contacted Cates about attending the hall of fame induction. Cates jumped at the chance to return to Parkersburg after a 36-year absence.

Although he spent only 2 1/2 years at PHS, the lessons learned and traditions at PHS have helped him throughout his life, Cates said. He credits his coaches and the Fellowship of Christian Athletics at PHS with being positive influences.

Chris and Sandy have been foster parents to nine children, besides raising three boys of their own. They work with Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA, which strives “to create a safer environment for abused children.”

BACA members attend court hearings in support of these children.

Cates played one year of football at Virginia Tech before knee injuries ended his football career.

Cates is general manager of the Houston office of Olshan foundation repair. The family lives on a 40-acre ranch, and Chris used to raise bucking bulls for rodeos.

Cates plans to return to Parkersburg next year for his 40th high school class reunion.

By then, Chris expects that he and Sandy will have adopted Lidia.


This summer, a woman was concerned about a cat stuck in a tree in North Hills.

The Wood County woman reportedly spent three days contacting various people in hopes of getting help for the cat.

Lt. Chip Umstot of the Waverly Volunteer Fire Department went to the cat’s rescue. Using a ladder he climbed up the tree and brought the cat down from its perch about 20 feet off the ground.

This is just one of the 457 emergency responses the Waverly VFD has responded to so far this year. Most of the responses involve medical calls, accidents, fires, trees down and other calamities.

About 60-65 percent of the calls are medically related, said Umstot, the department’s assistant secretary.

Umstot would like to see the Waverly VFD obtain a LUCAS Chest Compressive System for helping people in cardiac arrest. The battery-powered equipment provides a continuous chest compression while emergency responders perform additional life-saving measures.

Manual chest compression in cardiac arrest cases can be tiring for one person, Umstot notes. Rural volunteer fire departments don’t always have the manpower they would like to have in such situations — and medical centers can be miles away.

Umstot said a chest compressive system would cost about $16,560 — money that is not in the department’s operating budget. Waverly VFD has sent requests to organizations, seeking money for the LUCAS system, but has not received the necessary funds.

Waverly VFD will soon place a newly equipped, updated, four-wheel-drive first response vehicle on the road at a cost of $74,000, Umstot said.

Medical training, equipment, vehicles, insurance, utilities and other items create a great expense for volunteer fire departments.

Umstot appreciates the Wood County Fire Fee that helps the volunteer fire departments provide services.

For the first time, Waverly VFD is conducting a gun raffle as a fundraiser in November. A total of 1,000 tickets are available with a chance to win cash, two handguns and two rifles.

For gun raffle tickets call Chip Umstot at 304-588-5089, Matt Umstot at 304-893-8008 or Mike Umstot at 304-483-5824.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com