Separated by a mere seven miles on Ohio 7, Martins Ferry and Bellaire have had an intense rivalry in athletics ever since the two schools were formed more than 100 years ago.
However, the Purple Riders and Big Reds softball programs will come together to represent one man Tuesday afternoon when they meet in the inaugural Duane Powell Memorial Scholarship Game. The contest will be played, weather permitting, on the Bellaire Middle School Diamond in St. Joe with a 4:30 start.
"This means everything to our family," Dorothy Powell said of the memorial game. "We were totally astounded when we were approached.
"It's a great tribute to a wonderful husband and father."
According to Charlotte Stalder, president of the MFHS softball parents organization, the idea was brought up and everyone, including Bellaire's softball parents organization, immediately jumped on board.
"I was approached by Tammy and Michael DeLeonardis prior to the season. They asked if we would be interested in a memorial game for Duane," Stalder said. "He was such a big part of Martins Ferry softball, so there was no doubt that this was going to be more than an ordinary memorial game.
"It snowballed into a scholarship game and it was only natural that it be played against his alma mater," Stalder added. "We contacted the Bellaire coaches and they were excited to honor Duane.
"We've raised quite a bit of money already through 50/50 ticket sales, t-shirt sales and donations," Stalder reported. "Everyone has been so supportive of this. It's just been great."
Duane "Dibby" Powell was a talented 1952 graduate of Bellaire High School. He was inducted into the Wall of Fame for his extraordinary basketball skills, and his photograph hangs with many inside the BHS cafeteria. He passed away May 6, 2013.
In 1959, Powell married the love of his life, Dorothy Vargo, who just happened to be a loyal Purple Rider supporter. Duane, the Big Red, and Dorothy, the Purple Rider, were married for 54 wonderful years and their family grew with two daughters, Beth and Peri; a son, Tom; a daughter-in-law, Leslie, and three grandsons, Corey and Zac Beaver and Logan Powell.
Over the years, Dorothy persuaded Duane into becoming a Purple Rider fan and supporter of the community. Duane was the epitome of greatness that came from both towns. He represented everything that was good about Bellaire and Martins Ferry - pride, athletics, academics, family, loyalty and character. These were all of the utmost importance to him.
In his honor, the coaches, players, parents and communities of MFHS and BHS are raising money for an academic scholarship to be presented to a senior player from each team. This scholarship will represent the genuine selflessness that Duane possessed, his love for athletics, and his appreciation for academics.
"Each year, hopefully, a scholarship will be awarded to a senior player from each school," Stalder explained. "There is a very detailed requirement to be eligible. Each candidate had to write an essay on their community and supply the panel a biography of themselves."
Donations have already been received from the following: The Wharton Family; Mary Beth and Dirk Fitch; Chuck and Sharon Bishop; West Texas Roadhouse; New Horizon Animal Hospital; Western Branch Diesel; Jacob & Sons; Last Lap Cafe; Over & Under Concrete Construction; Cloud 9; Kreations; Total Sports Connection; Martins Ferry Softball Parents Organization; Bellaire Softball Parents Organization; and the Shadyside Party Center.
Both schools have sold t-shirts and 50/50 tickets.
During the opening ceremonies, Martins Ferry will be wearing red shirts with the No. 30 (Duane's number from when he played at Bellaire) and the Powell name on the back. Bellaire will be wearing Purple, with the No. 30 and his name, to sort of signify the connection of the communities and Duane.
They will then switch to their respective colors once the game starts.
The scholarships will be presented following the trophy presentation. This is a trophy that the family will pass back and forth to the winning team each year.
If anyone would like to make a donation or to represent either school, please contact (740) 310-3606; (740) 633-2019; or (740) 338-0876.