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These local folks are inspiring

January 06, 2003|by Tony Mulieri

There are certain people we come in contact with in our daily lives who inspire us by their accomplishments. They give us the motivation to tackle the routine tasks we face each day.

I'd like to mention a few in this column.

These are local people who would not consider themselves special but, in my mind, they accomplished extraordinary things in 2002.

The first is The Rev. Michael Jendrek at St. Ann's Catholic Church off Oak Hill Avenue in Hagerstown. Father Mike, the associate pastor, had an incredible task to take on in 2002 when St. Ann's beloved pastor, Monsignor Ed Manalis, died unexpectedly in fall 2001.

Father Mike was thrust into the job of "holding down the fort" until a new pastor could be named. Father Mike was relatively new to the parish anyway so it had to be a challenge for him, to say the least.

He did the job and more by maintaining the level of worship the parishioners had come to expect. And he seemed to do it with ease, while you know he had to be under incredible pressure to get it right.


Father Mike was able to keep things together at St. Ann's with his sense of humor and sense of family. He did it by baptizing babies, visiting the sick, marrying young couples and saying Mass - all the things required of a Catholic priest - until the new pastor, the Rev. Thomas Polk, was named midway through the year.

In a year when the Catholic Church was under great scrutiny over the child sexual abuse allegations, it was good to see that St. Ann's had strong leadership.

Thanks, Father Mike.

Another person who provided great inspiration to me was Buzz Sawyer. At 74 years old, Buzz was able to complete the JFK 50 Mile-Hike last November in 13 hours and 35 minutes. Participants are required to finish the course in under 14 hours.

Like the Rose Bowl in college football, the JFK is "the granddaddy of them all" when it comes to ultramarathons.

I used to write stories about the event when I was a sports writer and I would kid people that I had to get in shape just to cover the race because it took a lot of effort to get in and out of my car at the different checkpoints I visited along the way.

To actually finish the race as Buzz did is unfathomable to me.

Whenever I don't feel like doing my workout at the Y this year, I hope to look to Buzz's accomplishment for inspiration. If he can complete the JFK, surely I can get through my meager workout.

Buzz helped initiate the first JFK and was its inspirational organizer and spokesman for many years.

Way to go, Buzz.

Another local individual who has provided me with inspiration is North Hagerstown High School wrestling coach Greg Slick.

In an era when high school wrestling seems to be on the wane, Coach Slick has been able to fill the practice room with wrestlers. His teams may not win each match, but they are like a family.

And a big family at that.

Coach Slick has about 40 wrestlers and, in a lot of dual matches, many of those kids don't even get to compete because the other teams can't field as many wrestlers. Yet, the kids don't quit. They keep coming back.

My son Will, a senior, can't wrestle this year because he needs surgery on his shoulder but he goes to each practice and each match and I have to believe it is because of the atmosphere fostered by Coach Slick.

He makes sure the wrestlers keep their grades up or they're not eligible to wrestle. He keeps a close eye on their extracurricular activities as well.

They sometimes say an athlete who has great experience and game sense is like having a coach on the field. Well, Coach Slick is like having a parent at the school.

Thanks, Coach Slick.

Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. You can contact him at 301-733-5131, extension 7647 or by e-mail at

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