Joe Lonnett – Coaching
Joe was a confident, enthusiastic, and modest man who considered himself one of the luckiest people in the field of professional sports. He was third base coach and catching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, when they were winning world championships. Joe downplayed the key role that his 30 years in baseball played in the Pirates’ success. His experience as a professional catcher in both the major and minor leagues paved the way for his assistance in the development of many young prospects. His long experience and keen judgment helped him preside over the battery and running game of the Bucs. The Beaver Falls native began his professional baseball career in 1947 with a Cincinnati Reds farm club and was in the Philadelphia Phillies system from 1948 to 1970 as a minor league player and manager and as a catcher with the Phillies in the 1958-1959 seasons. Joe began his coaching career as a Scout for the Phillies from 1963 to 1970. Joe was an Assistant Coach and Third Base Coach with Manager Chuck Tanner at the Chicago White Sox from 1971 to 1975, Oakland Athletics in 1976 and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1977 to 1984.
Candy Young – Track & Field
Candy became synonymous with the hurdles almost immediately upon entering competition as a high school freshman in 1977. At one time, Candy held two world records. That year, she gained notoriety when she broke the existing junior Olympic record, not once, but twice in the same day. The following year, she took fifth out of a field of 24 world class hurdlers at Madison Square Garden in New York. She became an international sensation when she broke the 60 meters hurdle record, also at MSG, with a time of 7.5 seconds. Candy was named the nation’s Most Outstanding High School Athlete in 1979. A Pennsylvania state champ in her specialty each year she competed, Candy qualified for the 1980 US Olympic team but she and her teammates were unable to compete because of a boycott imposed on the games in Moscow by President Carter. Candy maintained world class status during her All American career at Farleigh-Dickinson University. In 1982, she and Stephanie Hightower finished in a dead heat in the 60 meter hurdles, both establishing a world indoor mark of 7.38 seconds. In 1984, she capped her collegiate career by winning the NCAA Indoor Hurdles championship. Candy maintained her contact with track and she coached for three years at Farleigh-Dickinson and three years at Seton Hall. On August 12, 2012, Candy became the Director of Athletics at Delaware State University.
George “Tookie” James – All-Around Athlete/Leader
College recruiters always search for the ‘complete package’: a player who combines athleticism and intelligence. George (Tookie) James was a recruiter’s dream. Graduating sixth of 352 students in his 1955 Beaver Falls High School class, Tookie starred in three sports and earned all-star recognition in each. He was the quarterback in football, a guard in basketball, and a catcher in baseball who was chosen twice to play in the American Legion State All Star game. Although receiving offers from seven major league teams, Tookie accepted a full academic scholarship to Westminster College, where he played football and baseball. He was a three-year starter as a running back and two-year co -captain on the gridiron, playing on two undefeated squads. He smacked a grand slam in his first baseball game and went on to earn four varsity letters for the Titans. After graduating from Westminster, Tookie again declined several professional baseball offers to attend law school at Dickinson School of Law. He had a successful career as a lawyer in Beaver Falls. Since 1998, he has served as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County.
Bill Blair – Basketball
Bill was the scoring star for Geneva Basketball teams from 1952 to 1957, when the Golden Tornados played their home games in the Beaver Falls High School Gym. That floor was thoroughly familiar to Bill because he had starred there three years for the Tigers. Bill’s Geneva career scoring record of 2052 points stood for 25 years until it was shattered in 1978 by Kevin Cressman, who compiled a Western Pennsylvania scoring record of 2372 points. Comparing the two is difficult because Cressman played 21 more games in his career when the seasons were longer. Because of his consistency, Bill’s career scoring average of 20.1 points per game at Geneva still stood (Cressman’s career average was 19.3 points per game). Although he stood only 6′-2″ during his collegiate playing days, Bill was known for his driving scoop shots as he zoomed past taller players guarding the basket. He earned NAIA All District, All State, and Little All America honors for thee years each. He was adept as a playmaker, rebounder, and defensive player as well as a scoring star. After his cage career, Bill has resided in Stratford, NJ, where he was head guidance counselor at Gateway School.
Rich Niedbala – Coaching
For the better part of 40 years, Rich Niedbala made a noble mark on Beaver County athletics, most notably as one of the top football coaches in the WPIAL. A three sport star at Beaver Falls High School, Rich capped his scholastic career by being named a Wigwam All American quarterback in 1959. He also won All Star honors for two years in basketball. Rich matriculated at the University of Miami in Florida, but in the spring of his sophomore year a broken leg played havoc with his playing time. He did, however, play backup to All American quarterback George Mira with the Hurricanes. Following graduation, Rich assisted at Beaver for six seasons and was named head coach of the Western Beaver program in 1971. In his 27 years on the job, Western compiled a 172-112-4 record. His Golden Beavers have won WPIAL championships in all three decades he has coached (1976, 1983, and 1994), and he is just one of five coaches in Beaver County history who can lay claim to at least three district coaching titles, the others being Don Yannessa, Joe Hamilton, Pat Tarquinio, and Carl Aschman. In addition, Rich took four other squads to the WPIAL championship and his 1994 team played for the Class A PIAA state title. The honors have been many for his coaching expertise: Rich was recognized as Section Coach of the Year eight times, was invited to coach in the Big 33 and Penn-Ohio All Star Games, and was named Coach of the Year twice in the Midwestern Conference. Rich has also coached the Golden Beaver baseball team for 20 years and served as the school’s athletic director for more than fifteen years.
1977 and 1978 Beaver Falls High School Girls’ PA State and WPIAL Gymnastics Team Champions with Coach Lynn Hill – Gymnastics, Beaver Falls: At Beaver Falls High School, Teri Turconi helped her team win the first Pennsylvania PIAA Gymnastic Championship in 1977 and two WPIAL and PIAA state titles in 1978 and 1979.