Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

August 30, 2013

A Russell tradition

RUSSELL — There are two ways to measure time in Russell. They are BI (Before Ivan) and AI (After Ivan).

Ivan McGlone begins his 38th season as Russell High School’s football coach — and 41st season overall — tonight when Greenup County visits Henry R. Evans Stadium.

However, there’s one Russell resident who has been involved with high school sports even longer than Ivan.

Bill Heaberlin, 79, is beginning his 15th season as timekeeper for Russell football games and his 61st season being involved, in some way, with high school sports in the area. He’s done a little bit of everything, from coaching to officiating, to running clocks, to cheering for his sons on the field.

Heaberlin’s run started when he was a player at Catlettsburg High School, where he graduated in 1952.

His wife Peggy has been with him every step of the way, too. She enjoys the

same reserved seat at Henry R. Evans Stadium.

The Heaberlins had five children — two boys (Bill and Bob) and three girls (Brenda, Susie and Pat) — and are diehard fans as well.

There were times when baseball umpiring crews consisted of Bob, Bill and Bill Sr.

Bob, who famously caught a touchdown pass in Putnam Stadium that helped Russell beat Ashland for the first time in 1973, died a few years ago.

Bill and Peggy met at a restaurant called Hobe’s Place on the Ashland-Catlettsburg line. They will have been married 60 years in December.

Part of the package was always high school sports for Bill Heaberlin.

Wife Peggy wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love football, but baseball is my favorite sport,” she said.

When they were dating, Peggy remembered Bill was playing for a church softball team and he asked her to sew some letters on a jersey.

“He was playing for the Catlettsburg Methodist Church,” she said. “I did it but it wasn’t easy.”

The Heaberlins’ life has revolved around high school sports for six decades. That’s two decades longer than McGlone has been coaching.

He began a love for officiating football and umpiring baseball at the age of 19 and was one of the most respected around.

“I can’t imagine the things he’s seen and the players he’s seen,” said Russell Athletic Director Sam Sparks.

Bill Heaberlin said he just takes it all in and still enjoys Friday nights as much as he did when he was playing for Charlie Snyder’s Wildcats in 1952.

“I love sports and like doing something all the time,” he said. “I took two years off (officiating) when my boys were playing.”

He said Bob’s touchdown reception against the Tomcats was “a big moment” for him.

Peggy said her husband “loves his ballgames, any sport. Then he comes home and watches the Reds. We’re both big Reds’ fans. They’re frustrating me a little bit.”

They have 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

One of her grandsons, Stewart Marcum, was a manager on the 2006 state champions and “has got one of those big rings,” she said.

Peggy enjoys her seat at the stadium around some of the Russell coaches’ wives. She sat with McGlone’s late wife, Gloria, for many years.

“She never misses a game,” Sparks said. “The  Heaberlins are such special people. Fans like that are the backbone of your program.”

Sparks said it’s a comfort to have Bill Heaberlin running the clock every Friday night and making sure the officials are treated with hospitality as well.

“That’s one less thing for me to worry about because of Bill,” he said.

Heaberlin officiated from 1954 to 1996, with the two years off while watching his sons play. So he knows a little bit about that part of the game.

“They gave him a shirt every year,” Peggy said. “He must have a drawer full of them.”

Currently, the family has five children in the Russell school system. Ten children and grandchildren already graduated from Russell High School.

The Heaberlin name, like McGlone, is a household name around Russell.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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