Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 1, 2013

Couple have blue and gold in their blood

Both 90, Keyser residents share decades of support for WVU football

KEYSER, W.Va. — A lot of people show their support for their favorite football teams by attending every game faithfully, donning anything with their team’s logo and cheering their team on from the comfort of their own couch. However, not many fanatical football fans can say that they have faithfully, without fail, supported their team for 56 years.

Tom and Thelma O’ Connor of Keyser have dedicated 56 years of traveling to see their favorite team in action. They are true blue and gold West Virginia Mountaineers fans. The O’Connors, both of whom are 90, have attended West Virginia University football games both home and away for the last 56 years and for at least 37 years they didn’t miss a game.

“It’s fun going to the games. You get to meet a lot of people,” said Thelma.

For the O’Connors, who were season ticket holders, the other fans they sat with became like family.

“You get to know people going to the games and a lot of the people become like family,” said Tom. “They can’t wait to see you and you can’t wait to see them.”

As season ticket holders, the O’Connors sat close to the 40-yard line.

Tom’s passion for football led him to play football for Keyser High School in 1940 to 1941. During that time Tom got to know former teammate Jonah Edward Kelley. Sgt. Kelley was a member of the 311th Infantry of the U.S. Army 78th Lightning Division. Kelley died in the process of saving his men; as a result, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

That passion has taken the couple all over the United States from New York to Texas. The O’Connors were part of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the West Virginia Alumni Association, which traveled to away WVU football games at least once a year. Thelma recalls traveling all night on a bus from Morgantown to Texas for a bowl game. One of the most memorable games for Tom was in September 1993 at College Park when WVU beat the Maryland Terrapins football team 42 to 37.

The O’Connors no longer attend as many games because it’s become harder for them to get around and instead they watch every game from the comfort of their couch, according to Thelma. Both Thelma and Tom agree that their beloved team isn’t doing very well this season.

“I thought they would do better this season but they are in tougher conference this season,” said Tom. “The Big East (conference) was not as tough as the Big 12 (conference). I think they will do all right as time goes by.” 

The last game the O’Connors attended was the Mountaineers vs. the Georgia State Panthers on Sept. 14 at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. The O’Connors watched the game from the president’s box, which sits over the 50-yard line. The president’s box seats were offered to the O’Connors because they are such dedicated fans and because of their $1,000 (Thomas and Thelma O’Connor) scholarship that’s given each year to a Potomac State College student who graduated from Keyser High School.

 In addition to teaching math at Ridgeley High School, Tom was football, basketball and track coach. Tom taught math at Keyser High School, was also an assistant football coach and a head basketball coach, before retiring in 1983.

“We never had children but when I was coaching I felt like I had a family,” said Tom.

In 1986, Tom was awarded the Coca-Cola bottling works Golden Helmet for being an All Star coach and for his outstanding contribution to the great game of football.

In 2001, the O’Connors were award honorees for the Alumni Distinguished Service Award for PSC of WVU. Tom and Thelma served Potomac State College as both employees and as volunteers. Thelma began her 29-year career as assistant librarian to Mary Shipper in 1955 and Tom served as a teacher and a coach, according to the PSC website.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at

Text Only
Local News
  • W.Va. legislative candidates gearing up for election

    ROMNEY, W.Va. — Five area candidates will be vying for legislative seats in this year’s election.

    April 20, 2014

  •  Easter grass Easter grass

    Kamryn Rice, 7, of Flintstone, finds and bags a plastic egg during Cumberland’s annual Easter Egg Hunt Saturday afternoon at Constitution Park. Hosted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, along with students from Frostburg State University’s Recreation and Parks Management program and the 4-H Youth of Allegany County, the afternoon also included games, relay races, face painting, temporary tattoos, arts and crafts, and a petting zoo sponsored by the 4-H Hare Raiser Club, as well as a visit from the Easter Bunny. The eggs contained candy and other treats.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Business community wary of minimum wage increases

    CUMBERLAND — Allegany County businesses are certain to be impacted by the increase in Maryland’s minimum wage, set to reach $10.10 an hour by July 2018 under a law championed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

    April 20, 2014

  • Tipped workers left behind in pay hike action

    ANNAPOLIS — Many minimum wage workers will be getting a raise now that a hike to Maryland’s wage has been signed into law. But while advocates are ascribing the increase as a win, there’s a bitter aftertaste for one group that was left behind.

    April 20, 2014

  • Views vary among Americans when it comes to hourly rate

    CUMBERLAND — Even among those who have worked minimum wage jobs, views on the minimum wage can differ.
    “Minimum wage has to exist. There is no question there, so whatever it is, it will be called ‘minimum wage’. But it should not be below a living wage,” said Bonita Quick of Cumberland.

    April 20, 2014

  • Income guideline change will increase WIC recipients

    KEYSER, W.Va. — Raised income eligibility guidelines for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will increase the number of those served in West Virginia by about 10 percent, according to the state health officer.

    April 20, 2014

  • Absentee ballots moving online causes security concerns

    ANNAPOLIS — Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks.

    April 20, 2014

  • Allegany County emergency medical services honorees and supporters Allegany, Garrett emergency responders honored

    MCHENRY — The 75 people from Allegany and Garrett counties who were involved with two exceptional emergency medical services calls in 2013 were presented with awards at the recent Night for Stars program held at the Wisp Resort.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lexis Trickett meets with Gov. Martin O’Malley Ninth-grader among 30 at inaugural event

    OAKLAND — Lexis Trickett, a ninth-grade student at Southern Garrett High School, was among 30 girls who attended Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Leadership Forum for Women and Girls recently in Annapolis in celebration of Women’s History Month.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • School immunization requirements change

    CUMBERLAND — Changes to school immunization requirements by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene affect students entering kindergarten and seventh grade for the next school year.

    April 20, 2014

Must Read
News related video
Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier Raw: Crowds Rally at '420' Celebration in Denver Marathoners Celebrate Easter With Tradition Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case