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.

1
Text Only
Mickey Furfari
  • FURFARI COLUMN: Ex-Mountaineer track star dies; WVU athlete arrests may be concern

    I’ve learned belatedly that James Gordon “Jim” Dial, an outstanding men’s track and field sprinter at West Virginia University during the late 1940s, has died.
    He was a native of Huntington who earned All-State first team status. The Huntington High star led all scorers in the state Track Championship meets in both 1946 and ’47.

    July 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Jedd Gyorko running and taking batting practice now

    A report on the internet at this week’s start indicated that Morgantown’s Jedd Gyorko might be ready finally to rejoin the San Diego Padre’s starting lineup.
    He has been on the Major League’s disabled list since June 3. Problems with his feet was given as the reason Gyorko was unable to keep playing.

    July 16, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: WVU hopes to boost season-ticket sales

    West Virginia University’s season-ticket sales for football are the lowest in nine years just two months before this season’s first home game.
    That will be on Saturday, Sept. 6, against Towson State. The Big 12 portion of the schedule follows.

    July 10, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: San Diego Padres’ Gyorko remains on disabled list

    Stringing together some odds and ends that may interest you:
    • Jedd Gyorko still is not active with the San Diego Padres. The former West Virginia University standout has been on the baseball’s disabled list for just over a month and hopes to return soon.

    July 9, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: It had to feel like ‘Ol’ Home Week’ for the Tricketts

    It might have felt like a bit of “Ol’ Home Week’ to West Virginia University starting quarterback Clint Trickett.
    His parents, Rick and Tara Trickett, were in the Morgantown area and stopped by to spend some time with Clint. They still live in Tallahassee, Florida.

    July 3, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: WVU football season-ticket sales approximately 26,000

    Stringing together some odds and ends about sports that may be of interest to you:
    • West Virginia University season-ticket sales for the 2014 football campaign have reached approximately 26,000. That’s some 2,000 since the count of 24,000 when the renewal deadline was reached.

    June 27, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: USA Today has WVU 78th in football countdown from No. 128 to No. 1

    Like Las Vegas oddsmakers, USA Today’s sports writer Paul Myerberg doesn’t rank West Virginia highly in that newspaper’s early college football predictions in a copyrighted piece.
    In one of its thorough pieces, USA Today analyzed West Virginia in its No. 78 ranking among 128 college teams. That’s what is called a countdown from No. 128 to No. 1.

    June 24, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Las Vegas oddsmakers not kind to WVU in early listings

    Not long ago, I guessed that the West Virginia University football team will go 6-6 during the 2014 football season.
    That was based strictly on a hunch. It would show at least some improvement over last year’s pitiful 4-8 finish.

    June 22, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five different items about a variety of sports

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • In a continuing federal court case out West, an economist recently testified that student athletes could receive as much as $1 million were he or she given a half share of a major college’s revenue from network game broadcasts over a four year period.

    June 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Noll was the most successful football coach I ever knew

    Charles Henry “Chuck” Noll was without question the most successful football coach at any level that I’ve ever known in my writing career.
    Noll, who died in his sleep at 82 last Friday night, served 23 enjoyable – and most memorable – years as mentor of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    June 17, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads