Cumberland Times-News

Latest news

September 23, 2013

Former West Virginia secretary of state celebrates 99th birthday

Ken Hechler resides in Hampshire County

ROMNEY, W.Va. — More than 100 friends, relatives and representatives of dignitaries brought verbal gifts of thanks to longtime former West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler at a surprise birthday party held Sunday at the South Branch Inn.

“Thank you,” is all Hechler could say when he realized the gathering was for his 99th birthday.

As one friend said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen him speechless.”

“My goodness,” Hechler said. “I’m going to invite all of you back to my 100th party. Right now I’m glad to be anywhere.”

And Hechler’s humor set the tone for the entire event.

Hechler told the group he hopes to have enough time left in his life to write at least a couple of more books before he turns 100.

One of his special guests was Helen Holt, the first female secretary of state in West Virginia.

Hechler helped Holt celebrate her 100th birthday Aug. 18.

Holt said when she first met Hechler in 1958 that he scared her to death.

“I was in my office when I heard all this noise, a band and singing. Ken wanted an application to run for the U.S. Congress,” Holt said.

“I signed a lot of certificates. I don’t remember any other. But I remember Ken.”

Hechler remembered and sang part of his theme song.

“Back then there was this song called ‘Sugartime.’ We changed the words a little bit to ‘Hechler in the morning, Hechler in the evening, Hechler at election time,’” he said.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin sent Hechler greetings, saying, “Ken has honorably served our state and nation for many years as a veteran, an aide to President Harry S. Truman, an educator, and a public servant. As a U.S. Congressman, he served West Virginia for 18 years in Washington and truly made a positive difference.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wrote that it was a privilege to commend Hechler for his many accomplishments.

“His contributions to West Virginia are too numerous to count, and I stand amazed by his incredible knowledge and ability,” Tomblin wrote.

Hechler was astounded when he was presented with a lapel pin and honorary membership to the Book and Key Society of Swarthmore (Pa.) College.

“This was one of my aspirations that never occurred until this very moment. I am humbled,” Hechler said.

The Book and Key Club is an honor society established in 1906 at the college.

Another recognition was brought to the party by Delegate Ruth Rowan.

Rowan said to become a Distinguished Mountaineer a person has to be born in West Virginia.

“The senior staff met and they have proclaimed you as a Distinguished Mountaineer,” Rowan said.

Numerous relatives and acquaintances over the years reflected on their individual experiences with Hechler.

A former Hechler employee said that he was an amazing boss. She commented on his honesty and encouragement to his staff to challenge him when they didn’t agree with his ideas.

“He changed our lives forever,” she said.

Bobby Nelson worked with Hechler during his 1958 campaign.

Nelson said, “We covered over 12,000 miles in his old Army Jeep and he wore out three pairs of shoes.”

Mary Jo Brown, liaison for Manchin, remembered Hechler visiting Burke Street School in Martinsburg, where she was principal.

“He kept a bunch of books in his Jeep. Mr. Hechler pulled up a chair and set down and shared his travels across West Virginia to the children,” Brown said.

“They loved him.”

Hechler reflected on his many campaigns, saying he had a gimmick.

“I got a card table and a couple of dozen folding chairs. I went to places like City Hall and the Post Office. I had a banner, Ken Hechler’s open air office hours,” Hechler said.

Hechler said it was a good ploy because inside people wanted to give him their life history before they’d get to the point. Outside they could see the people waiting in line so they got right to the point.

He voiced his opinion about the environment, an issue he continues to feel strongly about.

“God gave this Earth not to destroy but to preserve for future generations. I don’t mind being called a tree-hugger because I am,” Hechler said.

Nelson said Hechler is a people person and would talk to people anywhere and everywhere.

“He always said it was better to jump the gun than not move when the gun goes off,” said Nelson.

“If everyone would live the kind of life this man has lived, think of what this nation would be like.”

Hechler is the oldest living person to have served in the U.S. Congress.

Hechler and longtime acquaintance Carol Kitzmiller were married Aug. 12. The couple reside in Hampshire County.

1
Text Only
Latest news
  • Puff & Stuff owners agree to settlement in federal court

    CUMBERLAND — The owners of Puff & Stuff stores in Cumberland and LaVale agreed to forfeit $173,988 to settle claims that they sold synethic drugs at their stores.

    April 23, 2014

  • Orndorff.jpg Hampshire man sentenced to 40 years plus in child death

    ROMNEY, W.Va. – Hampshire County Circuit Court Judge H. Charles Carl III sentenced Cory A. Orndorff, 23, of Green Spring on Wednesday to 40 years for one count of child abuse resulting in the death of an 18-month-old child

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wills Mountain wild fire 70 percent contained

    CENTERVILLE, Pa. — Fire on Wills Mountain that began Saturday reportedly covered more than 800 acres by Wednesday morning and was 70 percent contained, according to a public information officer with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.

    April 23, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
     

    April 23, 2014

  • West Virginia flags lowered for former congressman

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — State and U.S. flags at state facilities are at half-staff in honor of former Rep. Mick Staton.
    Staton died April 14. He was 74.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Truck catches fire on city bridge

    CUMBERLAND — Cumberland firefighters doused a pickup truck fire on the Baltimore Street bridge spanning Wills Creek about 11 a.m. Tuesday, but not before it destroyed the engine compartment and damaged the passenger area of the Chevrolet.

    April 22, 2014

  • Carbon monoxide causes evacuation at Ramada

    CUMBERLAND — High carbon monoxide readings at the Ramada Inn on George Street resulted in the evacuation of the first floor at midday Tuesday and caused a senior citizen prom to be moved elsewhere.

    April 22, 2014

  • picketing 2-1.jpg Workers begin picketing outside WV Schools for Deaf and Blind

    ROMNEY, W.Va. – Child care workers and union reps began picketing outside the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Tuesday morning.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Romney firefighters get federal grant

    ROMNEY, W.Va. — The Romney Fire Company will receive $67,925 in funding through the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

    April 22, 2014

  • Sgt. Walter May.jpg Sgt. Walt May earns Award of Merit

    CUMBERLAND — The Maryland Natural Resources Police honored Sgt. Walt May of Westernport during its annual awards ceremony held last week at Chesapeake College.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Obama to Oso: We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads
NDN Video
Stephen Colbert Tells David Letterman His Plan for 'Late Show' Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Georgetown police officer filmed tripping students Lupita Nyong'o Named People's 'Most Beautiful' Recycling Highlights for Earth Day Peeps Launched into Outer Space NYPD's Twitter Request For Photos Backfires New HBO Go Commercials Capture Awkward Family TV Watching Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Rise of the Milkbots Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County
NDN Video
Stephen Colbert Tells David Letterman His Plan for 'Late Show' Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Georgetown police officer filmed tripping students Lupita Nyong'o Named People's 'Most Beautiful' Recycling Highlights for Earth Day Peeps Launched into Outer Space NYPD's Twitter Request For Photos Backfires New HBO Go Commercials Capture Awkward Family TV Watching Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Rise of the Milkbots Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County