Still teammates after many years

November 28, 2001

Still teammates after many years

Editor's note: This is one in a series of occasional stories profiling Tri-State residents who will carry the Olympic torch in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., on Dec. 20 during one leg of the torch's 13,500-mile journey to Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Winter Games, which begin in February.


It didn't take any time at all for Nanci Cogswell to choose the person she wanted to sponsor in the Dec. 20 Olympic torch run.


Cogswell, a day-care worker in Martinsburg, W.Va., chose 71-year-old Richard Smith, despite his age and the fact that he lost a leg to diabetes five years ago.

"He was the first person to come to mind ... I just wanted to do something to honor him," Cogswell said.


What the former New York resident didn't expect was that she, too, would be running in the effort, either handing off the torch to Smith or taking it from him during the run.

"I got the letter July 9 that we would be a team," Cogswell said.

The relationship between Cogswell and Smith was forged more than 30 years ago when he was a juvenile probation officer in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Through the years, they have remained close.

"I was notified by letter that Nanci had nominated me," said Smith from his home in Cherry Run, just over the line into Morgan County, W.Va. "I felt very proud."

Cogswell, 49, wrote a 100-word essay about Smith, describing him as a man who never gives up no matter what life sends his way.

Neither heart surgery nor the loss of his leg has slowed Smith. Quick with a smile, Smith's zest for life is evident.

"Richard has been my light, hope and courage for 30 years of my life," said Cogswell in her nomination letter to the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic torch relay committee.

Cogswell's association with Smith changed her life as he instilled in her the belief that she was worth something at a time in her life when she had doubts.

The mother of two grown children, Cogswell has been a day-care teacher for years.

Now retired after 19 years in juvenile probation work, Smith keeps active as an ordained pastor at Johnsontown Church of the Brethren. He and his wife have three children.

"I still do a lot of church work," said Smith, who gets around in a scooter and a specially-equipped van.

Smith said he hopes the weather holds out on Dec. 20 for his segment of the torch run.

"I'm ready, though. I even have headlights on my scooter in case it's dark outside," Smith said.

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