CHARLESTON – Our state is rich in natural resources such as coal, gas and timber. But, some people say our best natural resource is our people.
If that’s the case (and I happen to think it is), West Virginia lost one of its greatest resources last week.
Chris Stadelman might have been born in New Jersey, but he was West Virginian through and through. He loved the state fiercely, and the state is better for it.
It’s newspaper style to refer to someone by their last name on second reference, but I always called him Stadelman … maybe because it is newspaper style.
I was fortunate enough to know and work with Stadelman for 30 years. We met at Marshall University, and we immediately became friends. Both of us being journalism majors, we also shared a love of sports and politics. We both minored in political science, and we both ended up being sports editor at The Parthenon, Marshall’s student newspaper.
We might have shared a lot of the same ideas about newspapers and news judgment, but we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye about most things sports. He was a Pittsburgh fan – Steelers, Pirates, Penguins. I am a Cincinnati Reds and Dallas Cowboys fan.
But, we did share a love of Marshall University athletics. We spent many Saturdays tailgating and taking in Thundering Herd football games. I can’t tell you how many times we’d share a glance at each other with a knowing smile after a great play or a roll of our eyes after a stupid call.
After graduation, we both ended up working at the Charleston Daily Mail. For a few years, Stadelman was managing editor while I was city editor.
As a boss, he could be tough and blunt. That rubbed some people the wrong way. But he always was fair. And, he always put the best interest of the newspaper staff, the newspaper itself and its readers first.
Stadelman left the Daily Mail before I did. He and his wife Kelly then bought the Parsons Advocate newspaper in Tucker County and ran it for several years. They also started a public relations firm. And eventually, Stadelman became press secretary and eventually chief of staff for former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
In each of those other of jobs, I was able to work with Stadelman in various capacities.
He offered advice when I helped launch The West Virginia Record. He even wrote a story that appeared on the front page of the inaugural issue about a case in Tucker County. He’d share story tips he had heard that might be of interest to me.
I worked with him and his public relations firm a few times, and he always was the consummate professional. When he joined Tomblin’s staff, I knew I could count on him to give me whatever information I needed … or at least point me in the right direction if I needed to go elsewhere. And he still would give me story tips because that’s what good journalism friends do.
A few years ago, Stadelman was diagnosed with cancer. Again. He had battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a young man. This time, it was colorectal cancer.
He battled the disease valiantly. He easily could have given up, and he certainly considered it. But he fought hard until the end. That’s the type of person he was.
As president of the Alumni Advisory Board for Marshall’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, I was honored to be able to tell Stadelman last spring that he was being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. I just so happened to call him on April 1 to notify him, and he thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. And I’m so thankful we were able to honor him last fall surrounded by his family and so many of his friends.
This week, we will honor Stadelman again and celebrate his life. There will be events in Charleston and in Tucker County.
Before he died, the Stadelmans established the Stadelman Journalism Scholarship. It was one more gift to the things he loved dearly: the state, Marshall and journalism. Those who would like to make a donation in his honor can do so through the Tucker Community Foundation, P.O. Box 491, Parsons, WV 26287.
Sure, there will be tears at these celebrations this week. That’s to be expected. But I also know there will be many more smiles and laughs. And that’s the way it should be.
Dickerson is editor of The West Virginia Record.