The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

October 13, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Bonsall founded Special Olympics program for state’s handicapped kids

MORGANTOWN — William A. “Bill” Bonsall not only is West Virginia’s “Father of Gymnastics” but also the founder of the Mountain State’s Special Olympics program for handicapped children.

What’s more, the university’s 31-year veteran and only head coach of a men’s gymnastics program that no longer exists, has numerous other credits. Those benefited the state residents as well as schools at all levels.

Bonsall, a Philadelphia, Pa., native and Penn State graduate, organized and served the first three years as president of the West Virginia Prisoners of War chapter in West Virginia. He was in the U.S. Army during World War II for three years.

A member of the forces that landed at Normandy on D-Day, he was captured by German troops on Sept. 5, 1944, at Dinant, Belgium. Bonsall was held there until he escaped to Warsaw, Poland, on Jan. 31, 1945.

  He returned to the United States later that year. After receiving his honorable discharge, he re-enrolled at Penn State. He graduated in 1949, and then came to West Virginia University later that year.

Bonsall, who becomes 90 at year’s end, turned out gymnastics teams that combined for a record of 130-117-1 during his 31-year career at WVU.

He took time from his job to visit high schools throughout West Virginia and urged them to start gymnastics programs. To promote that sport, Bonsall donned a clown suit and staged a demonstration of gymnastic skills during halftime of basketball games.

So you might say that’s another “first” for his lengthy list of program starts. After initiating the state’s Special Olympics program for handicapped kids in 1963, Bonsall directed WVU’s all-campus intramural sports program for seven years. He also taught classes for the institution’s School of Physical Education.

Another feather for Coach Bonsall’s cap came in 1955. He brought the Swedish national gymnastics team to Morgantown for an exhibition appearance at the old Field House (now Stansbury Hall).

Bonsall has been retired from coaching since 1980.

Bill and wife Jean, who have been married 67 years, still reside in Morgantown and adopted West Virginia by choice.

Upon retirement, he was honored with the title of professor emeritus. He had numerous interests, including art and drafting, to keep him and Jean busy after retirement.

They were active for many years in local social organizations, including some at the Village of Heritage Point, where they have lived for 14 years.

The Bonsalls have three grown children and seven grandchildren. The children are Barbara Wood of Fairfax County, Va.; Janet Humphrey of Warrenbury, Mo.; and Paul Bonsall of Charlotte, N.C.

Bill and Jean Bonsall were co-owners of Paige Creations, the largest distributor of post cards in the state of West Virginia.

They sold the well-known business some time ago.

Text Only
Mickey Furfari
  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Blaney wins 100th Sprint Car race

    Stringing together some odds and ends that may be of interest to you:
    • Dale Blaney, the all-time great West Virginia University basketball star, has achieved another historic notch in his athletic career as a Sprint Car racer. He posted his 100th career riding in the All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series at Attica Raceway Park in Ohio last weekend.

    April 12, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- What a wonderful evening with Dr. Stanley ‘Coach’ Kandzari

    This column really is not about sports, per se. But, more importantly, it is about a widely known medical doctor whose nickname happens to be “Coach.”

    April 8, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Turnbull endured many tragedies growing up

    Coach Craig Turnbull, the latest head-coach victim of Oliver Luck’s shocking series of firings at West Virginia University, had generally enjoyed what many rate as an outstanding career not only in athletics but in life.
    Like the present, there also were some very difficult times for him as a youngster.

    April 6, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: All-time WVU great QB Bernie Galiffa dies at 63

    It was very sad to learn that Bernie Galiffa, one of the most outstanding quarterbacks in West Virginia University football history, had passed away.
    The three-year letterman for famed coach Bobby Bowden died last Thursday in Wilmington, N.C., at the age of 63.

    April 4, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Is $106 million in facilities updates really key to WVU sports success?

    You may have heard or read that West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is planning to spend $106 million for major projects.
    According to published reports, that is to improve athletic facilities, including Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum (yet to be named for a rich donor).

    April 2, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Who’s next on Oliver Luck’s hatchet list?

    Who’s going to be next on Oliver Luck’s sad house-cleaning list as West Virginia University’s athletic director?
    Craig Turnbull, the outstanding head coach and builder of the Mountaineers’ wrestling program for 36 years, was notified on Friday afternoon that Luck shockingly announced that his contract will not be renewed on June 30 for next year.

    March 30, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Herbie Brooks one of Catlett’s early standouts at WVU

    Herbie Brooks, a native of Beckley, was an All-Stater at Mullens High School and demonstrated his talents at West Virginia University from 1984-89 in men’s basketball.
    The 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard performed admirably under coach Gale Catlett’s direction.

    March 29, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads