WHEELING - When Mark Zavatsky sits down to enjoy Easter dinner today, it will be a time to reflect and thank the Lord for the blessings He's bestowed on he and his family.
God has certainly been in Zavatsky's thoughts lately. The longtime educator at Linsly sought His guidance in making what was one of the toughest decisions of his life - leaving Linsly.
Following 30 years years of attending, teaching, coaching and administering at the Woodsdale campus, Zavatsky is heading to Florida when the current school year ends. His wife of 26 years, Judy, has accepted a new job as Director of Imaging at Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, Fla.
LINSLY TEACHER and coach Mark Zavatsky looks through the Cadets’ yearbook. He’s announced he’s stepping down and moving to Florida at the end of the school year.
''This just wasn't a flip decision on our part,'' Zavatsky stressed. ''There was a lot of prayer; where does God want us? We spoke to our parents and a lot of close friends.
''Everyone is saying they're going to miss us, but they completely understand.''
It's been an emotional time for Zavatsky ever since word started to spread through the Linsly campus that he and his family would be leaving.
''It was real tough,'' he said. ''We've already shed some tears, and I'm sure some more tears will be shed when it actually happens.''
One of the guys who the news especially hit hard, Zavatsky said, was Mike Church, his longtime assistant golf coach.
''He got pretty emotional,'' Zavatsky said.
And that's understandable. When you spend day in and day out with people, as Zavatsky has done at Linsly the past 27 years, saying goodbye is going to be difficult.
''There are so many people here that I'm going to miss,'' he said.
Linsly has pretty much been Zavatsky's life.
A native of the Colerain area of Belmont County, Zavatsky, the son of Sam and Margaret Zavatsky, attended Martins Ferry High School for one year before graduating from Linsly in 1983.
While attending Washington & Lee in Virginia he stayed in close contact with many folks at Linsly, including Headmaster Reno DiOrio. DiOrio wanted to know if Zavatsky was interested in teaching and replacing math teacher John Franz, who was retiring.
''So, by the time I returned to W&L for my senior, I knew I was coming back to Linsly and I knew what position I was going to have.''
And he's been there ever since.
Along the way, Zavatsky served as a junior high basketball coach, the inaugural head softball coach, assistant athletic director, and co-leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes with Dave Riethmiller. But most people recognize him for his work as Linsly's head golf coach, a position he assumed from Dan Petri in 1990.
''I've met so many good friends as golf coach,'' he said.
And, he's picked up numerous accolades.
In 24 years, Zavatsky's teams posted a 676-383 mark, winning 14 OVAC championships - the most in the conference during that span.
Zavatsky also served as a OVAC Tournament director eight times.
''I never took credit for the wins,'' he said. ''You try to put the lineup together and put it in their heads how to play smart, but being an on-course during a match just doesn't happen.''
Many of his former players have kept in touch through the years and one, Whitney Young, will be a familiar face when he moves to Boca Raton, Fla. Zavatsky said after she graduated from Wheeling Jesuit she decided to pursue a career in golf and is working about five miles from his new home.
Judy is already living in that new home, already having left her previous job at Trinity in Steubenville for her new position. She returns to the Zavatsky's Linsly campus home when she can, but for the time being it's Mark and their two sons - Max, 15, a freshman, and Michael, 12, a seventh grader. The couple's oldest, Lauren, 22, attends West Liberty. She'll transfer to Florida Atlantic next school year to be closer to the family.
As for Mark, he's had to throw himself into the job market for basically the first time. He's had some interviews with some schools similar to Linsly, but hasn't heard back as of yet. In the meantime, he's savoring every last bit of time he has in his hometown.
''I have a from Richmond, Va. and another from Texas and they can tell in the few weekends they're here, it's different here,'' he said.
''The people are friendlier here. And that's what I'm going to miss.
''My wife is already seeing it. She said there are nice people there, but it's just not the same.
''That caring mentality the people of the Ohio Valley have, I know I'm going to miss that.''
If you know of someone involved with sports at any level in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org