NEWTON FALLS - For more than two decades, former classmates of Steven Wolfe have gathered at the village softball fields to honor their friend with an afternoon of ballgames.
The games have always been played on the Fourth of July, and the first pitch is thrown at "high noon," explained Dan Apanasewicz.
Friday marked the 25th and final game.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Virginia Shank
Dan Apanasewicz, a Newton Falls High School graduate now living in Dayton, left, stands next to Karin Wolfe. The two watch the action during the 25th annual softball game in memory of Wolfe’s son, Steven Wolfe, who was killed at a railroad crossing in 1990.
"It's been a way for us to pay tribute to our friend, spend time together and do something good," Apan-asewicz explained. "But we're getting older, and a lot of us live out of the area now, some have families and jobs or careers that make it harder to get here. So we all agreed a few years back that we would finish the season off, so to speak. It's been a good run, a really good run."
Apanasewicz, a Newton Falls native now living in Dayton, attended Newton Falls High School with Wolfe, a 1986 graduate, who died in 1990 at a village railroad crossing. He was a junior at Youngstown State University at the time. Wolfe's mother, Karin Wolfe, who still lives in Newton Falls, explained that her son loved sports. For years, Wolfe's team also sponsored a golf outing. Proceeds from that event, along with the annual softball gathering, went to the Steven Wolfe Memorial Scholarship at Newton Falls High School. The program has provided 53 scholarships, in varying amounts, to high school seniors over the years.
There was never a fee to participate in a softball game. Game participants typically made contributions. Funds were also been raised through a 50/50 raffle.
This year about 50 childhood friends played ball. Apanasewicz and Karin Wolfe said they never had to cancel a game because of weather or a lack of players. And participants have never had to be reminded of game day.
"They have just always known and showed up to play," Karin Wolfe said. "Dan has sent reminders, but most of them haven't needed them. It was tradition."
She explained that her son's friends started the softball tradition as a way to raise money for the scholarship program in his name.
Several Newton Falls graduating classes have been represented at each game.
"It really is about honoring a friend, doing something to honor his memory," said Bill Rinehart of Newton Falls.
Karin Wolfe said marking the final game was more difficult than she imagined it would be.
"I knew it would be hard, but this is hitting me. It's been wonderful. Everyone has always been so faithful. The way they've honored Steven's memory has been overwhelming at times. They truly loved him and you could always see that."