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Friends, colleagues recall Kellenberger’s love for the Mid-Ohio Valley

PARKERSBURG — For many, George Kellenberger was a tireless advocate for the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Kellenberger passed away over the weekend at his home at The Villages in Florida

He served as President of the Mid-Ohio Valley Chamber of Commerce and was also known for his work organizing and fundraising for the annual Parkersburg Homecoming Festival as well as serving the community for many years.

The Parkersburg Homecoming Committee made a post Saturday on the Parkersburg Homecoming Facebook page announcing the “sad news” of Kellenberger’s death.

“Our former longtime President of Parkersburg Homecoming, George Kellenberger, passed away in Florida,” the post said. “George was a great man and great leader. He always kept up on activities with Parkersburg Homecoming, and every year sent a donation for rubber ducky derby tickets.”

The Homecoming Board created the George Kellenberger Volunteer of the Year Award and George was its first recipient.

“George never lost his love or enthusiasm for the Mid Ohio Valley,” the post said. “Those who knew him, knew he was one of a kind, a very special guy and outstanding community leader. May he rest in peace.”

Former West Virginia Delegate and former Wood County Commissioner Rick Modesitt, owner of Rick Modesitt and Associates which books entertainment acts for many fairs and festivals, remembered Kellenberger as someone who loved the community

“He never lost his interest or his enthusiasm or his support for the Mid-Ohio Valley,” Modesitt said Monday. “Every year he would call and send up a check to make a donation to the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival of which he was the president for a number of years (and one of the founding members of the festival back in the early 1980s.”

Modesitt and Kellenberger remained in contact after he left the area and moved to Florida after he retired.

“George was one of a kind,” he said. “He was always selling the Mid-Ohio Valley. He was always in forward motion.

“I don’t think we have seen anyone like him since.”

Modesitt said Kellenberger was always visible around the community, involved in a number of community organizations and more.

“He was a cheerleader and he was always filled with enthusiasms and he was a good sales person,” he said. “You saw him everywhere. He loved the area.”

Former Parkersburg Homecoming President Randall Roberts said Kellenberger did a lot of good things for the community through his work for the Homecoming, through the Chamber and more. Roberts said Kellenberger shaped the Homecoming Festival into what is was for a number of years before retiring.

“He put a lot of work into the festival with the entertainers brought in,” Roberts said. “There were tons of people down there. He helped drive many years of its success as he put in a lot of his own personal time into the festival.”

Chuck Lipps, who works for Rick Modesitt and Associates, said he worked with Kellenberger a lot during the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival.

“The one thing that I have always told everybody is if it wasn’t for George Kellenberger, there would not have been a Parkersburg Homecoming Festival,” Lipps said. “He put his heart and soul into raising funds for Parkersburg Homecoming for several years.

“He was the sparkplug that made it run and kept it going until he retired several years ago and moved to Florida.”

Lipps remembers Kellenberger as a wonderful man. He said he could have gotten to see him one last time before he passed. Lipps did regular work down in Florida, but it never took him close enough for him to be able to visit Kellenberger.

“I remember a lot of people who teased him because he was out there fundraising and trying to get sponsorships,” he said, adding he always got the big ones.

“Someone once told me, ‘We use to give money to George just to get him to go away,'” Lipps said with a laugh. “He was just a great guy.”

Information on any possible funeral/memorial services has not been released yet.

Jill Parsons, who currently serves as president/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, also reacted with sadness to Kellenberger’s passing.

“Sadly, we learned of the passing of the MOV Chamber’s retired President George Kellenberger over the weekend. George retired in 2009 after 34 years at the helm of our great organization. We are indebted to George for the foundation he paved for our organization; it allows us to be where we are today and all that we strive to be for our business community,” she said.

Parsons said she worked with Kellenberger when she served on the Chamber’s Local Government Committee and attended many events on behalf of her then-employer, St. Joseph’s Hospital, “never once considering that less than two years later I would be hired as the Chamber’s President and CEO,” she said.

“Even after moving from the area, he was still ‘in the know’ and loved the Mid-Ohio Valley. From time to time, he would call and let me know ‘his spies’ had been reporting back on our activities and that he loved hearing about this successful event or that new meeting we had held,” Parsons said.

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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