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Long-time Wildlife Managers Duffield and Gibson retire

Jerry Duffield

By Shirley Shuman
They came from different counties, and they followed different paths to obtain their positions as Wildlife Managers. However, Jerry Duffield and Burnard Gibson spent much of their time together in their work for the DNR, about which both feel blessed for having had the experience.
Duffield, who began his career in 1964, was born in Clay County and graduated from Clay County High School. Always interested in the outdoors, upon graduation he began working with Bert Pierce, a fish specialist with the DNR. Duffield also entered Glenville State College to study forestry. Then the Vietnam War came along, and he was drafted.
However, his military experience did not deter him from his goal. Not only that, but, he explained, “When I came out of the military, they had to give me my job back. Instead of returning to GSC, I used four years experience working with Bert to earn my degree.” At that time, Duffield was firmly established in a position which he truly enjoyed.
Nonetheless, he did leave his work with the DNR in 1980 when he “bought [his] family’s business in Clay.” He explained, “Unfortunately, it was about that time that Walmart and some of those other businesses came into being.” The family business did not go as well as he had hoped, so Duffield returned to the DNR.
Upon his return, the position in the Elk River Division was open because Gibson had moved to the Burnsville/Falls Mill area. Duffield stopped here to comment on his good fortune. “I truly felt blessed because how many times does anyone want to come back to his own county and actually find a job open in the field he left?” he said. “I could have had to go to another part of the state, or I could even have found no position open.” Duffield ended his career working in Clay, but he noted that he and Gibson spent plenty of time together.
Gibson went a different route toward his career. A Braxton native who grew up in the Bulltown area, he “was always outdoors” where he “hunted, fished, played and worked.”
He explained, “We ran sheep, hogs, cows, and chickens as we farmed. We spent time gardening and [doing other chores like] cutting our own fire wood.”
Gibson recalls, “in the early part of the 1960s” he saw, in the back of magazines such as Outdoor Life, “a young man in a uniform—tan shirt, tie, and green pants with a big brimmed hat,” and he dreamed. He explained that he was not at that time aware of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. His contacts came through a forester who helped his father “market a tract of timber,” and Raymond (Kit) Carson, a game warden.
The young man’s dream was, he said “put on the back burner” during high school. However, after marrying and moving to Ohio, where his wife Brenda attended college, the dream slowly returned. During that time, Gibson worked “in a factory on an assembly line, going through the motions.” He explained that he “soon realized there had to be something better in life than [that type of work]. His wife had graduated from college, and he asked her to return to West Virginia so he could enroll at Glenville State College to study forestry.
After obtaining a degree in Forestry Technology, he applied for a job with the DNR in Braxton County. Although he didn’t obtain that job, another opening came in the same office just six months later, and he was hired. This is where the two men——Burnard Gibson and Jerry Duffield—first became acquainted.
Gibson noted that Duffield was at that time working with Burt Pierce in the office next door. “Jerry had an interest in fishing and trapping, which was right up my alley,” he said, continuing to explain that Duffield had helped him buy his “first dozen leg hold traps” and added, “I became a trapper.” For more than two years, he worked as a forestry technician, doing forest-related projects and assisting landowners.
Then Gibson had the opportunity to “transfer to the job of [his] dreams,” and he was soon “wearing the tan shirt and green pants” but no hat. This job, working with the Wildlife Division, was his “lifetime love,” as he worked outdoors with wildlife and wildlife activities.
Describing the work of a Wildlife Manager, a position which he and Duffield both held,
Gibson noted—and Duffield seconded—that the job forces one to become “a jack of all trades.”
“We were sometimes law enforcement officers, as we were often scheduled to work during deer season,” Gibson said. “We even worked at Ace Hardware weighing and aging deer to provide reports to the DNR.” The work involved much more, however, as the Wildlife Manager included such tasks as erecting shops and storage buildings, maintaining trails, taking care of signs along with a multitude of other duties.
DNR wildlife work also includes many projects. For example, the organization has been and is currently doing research on the bald eagle and the golden eagle. Another type of project is transporting wildlife from one area to another, often to try to populate an area in which a particular type of wildlife—deer, for example, has almost disappeared.
Gibson commented on these projects and the public’s reaction. “Some projects we did were respected by the people, but some the public didn’t like,” he said. Here he mentioned the “problem of the geese.” He explained, “People are annoyed by the geese and the messes they make. However, these geese are federally protected, so there was nothing we could do.”
At least two of the projects which both Gibson and Duffield undertook resulted in definite public reaction. One involved trapping turkeys in Gilmer County to release in Braxton County, which at that time had no turkey population. Gibson commented that he and Duffield “were almost ridden out of Cedar Creek State Park on a rail during a time we were on a work assignment, trapping turkey.” He explained, “The locals paraded up and down the main highway blowing horns trying to disrupt our plan of catching turkey. They didn’t succeed. We caught our turkey,” and then he jokingly added, “but we haven’t dared to go back since.”
Another work experience during which the two faced some criticism involved an attempt to “remove a bear from behind the Kroger store in Summersville with a bear trap.” Gibson continued, “When that failed, we had to kill the animal, only to be written up in the county newspaper for the use of unnecessary force.”
Then there was an incident with a bear cub. Gibson and Duffield were called to remove the cub from a tree which it had decided to inhabit. “Jerry and I had anticipated a cuddly little cub, but what we found was a 35-pound Tasmanian devil,” Gibson said. Those involved chose Gibson to climb the tree and put a noose around the bear’s neck. He decided not to attempt that, but, since he had been trained to use controlled drugs to immobilize animals, he agreed to follow that route.
He did manage, he noted, to immobilize the bear cub, but it fell asleep on a limb so they still had a bear in a tree. The plan which developed called for Gibson to climb the tree and drop the cub into a net which those on the ground were holding. His task was not easy.
“Here I was,” he said, “holding onto the tree with one arm and wrapping the other around this bear cub to drop it into the net.” He did manage the drop, but the weight of the cub caused the net to rip, and the cub hit the ground hard.
“There was a crowd gathered around us,” Gibson said, ‘and when the animal hit the ground, we heard a chorus of sympathy for it.” Duffield picked the cub up, put it into a cage, and, three months later, released a healthy animal. About this story, Duffield just smiled and said, “A typical day in the life of a wildlife manager.”
Duffield told of a call which he “handled” himself. He commented that he had just returned home from taking care of a bear call. “It was 1:10 a.m.,” he said, “when the phone rang. A woman had reported a large cat in a tree in her front yard. She said the only light she had to use was her little boy’s flashlight so she couldn’t tell just what kind of cat it was.” Continuing, Duffield said that, with the promise that he would check it out early the next day, he persuaded her to wait. “The next morning I called her, and she told me that it was her son’s blown up tiger balloon.” he said, and added, “I was really glad I hadn’t gone out on that call.”
Jerry Duffield and Burnard Gibson both appreciate the opportunities their careers with the DNR gave them. Of his work, Duffield said, “I feel really blessed. I met some of the greatest, most helpful people in the world out there. I also felt fortunate to work on some of the bigger projects such as the Chronic Wasting Disease in the Eastern panhandle.”
Gibson referred to his career as “absolutely wonderful” and said, “I couldn’t envision a better career.” He, too, was lucky enough to work on several projects, including research of different types.
Currently, both men are busy with their own personal projects, and both appreciate the fact that they are no longer responsible for answering 911 calls or calls from private citizens 24 hours a day seven days a week. In a way, however, they might both miss some of the drama and, yes, fun, they had during their careers.

Burnard Gibson

Newly elected Assessor, Magistrate take oath of office

Braxton County Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Facemire administered the oath of office to newly elected Assessor Brenda Mollohan and Magistrate David Singleton at an informal ceremony at the Courthouse last Friday.

Braxton County Circuit Judge Richard A. Facemire administered the oath of office to newly elected Assessor Brenda Mollohan and Magistrate David Singleton last Friday. Both were running for the remainder of unexpired terms. Mollohan will serve the remained of Arlene Herndon’s term, who passed away, while Singleton will replace Larry Clifton who retired. In accordance with State Code both began their tenure as public servants immediately after being sworn in.
Judge Facemire welcomed family and friends to the impromptu ceremony in the main courtroom. Delegate Brent Boggs addressed the audience stating how proud he was of both Singleton and Mollohan and knew they would serve admirably.
After administering the oath of office Judge Facemire gave the candidates and family members the opportunity to address the audience.
Jean Boggs presented Brenda Mollohan a bouquet of flower on behalf of herself and husband. Boggs stated that Brenda had been very instrument in Brent’s campaign for re-election as well as a long-time family friend.
Following the ceremony, both candidates commented on the new direction there are taking. “I’m really looking forward to serving the people of Braxton County,” said Assessor Brenda Mollohan. “I promise to do by best and I will rely on others for assistance until I get my feet on the ground.”
Judge Facemire stated that David Singleton had been monitoring under Gilmer County Magistrate Carol Wolfe during his introduction of the newly elected officials. Singleton hopes that experience will help him meet the challenges of his new position. “I am really looking forward to my new job,” said Magistrate Singleton. “I enjoy helping people and working for this county. I believe this new direction in my life will afford me opportunities to continue that endeavor.”
Both candidates stated that they did not anticipate any changes in their staffs.
George Skidmore, the third candidate elected locally at during the primary election, will take office January 1. He will receive the oath of office at a later date.

Friday night single vehicle accident claims Sutton man

Emergency responders received an alert at approximately 10:30 p.m. Friday, November 14. The call reported a single vehicle on its top, on Route 4, near Foodland. When members of Braxton EMS and Gassaway Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene, they discovered the single occupant unresponsive.
According to Deputy Cleve Westfall of the Braxton County Sheriff’s Department, Ralph Dobbins of Sutton was pronounced dead at the scene. Dobbins is believed to have veered from the roadway while headed south on Route 4. His 2004 Subaru Forester struck a culvert bulkhead causing it to flip over. The vehicle slid 167 feet before coming to rest in the roadway.
Investigators suspect medical circumstances may have contributed to the accident. Members of the GVFD utilized the Jaws of Life to free Dobbins from the wreckage. The investigation by the Sheriff’s Department the Braxton County Medical Examiner Theron Hyer is continuing at press time.

Sutton man charged with arson -
Clarks’ Town Hill Apartments heavily damaged by blaze

At late night Sunday fire seriously damaged the Clarks Town Hill Apartments and landed one man in jail. The alarm was reported at approximately 9:30 p.m. when a neighbor told a 9-1-1 dispatcher that Darrin Vaughn had broken the window of her apartment and that his unit, next door, was on fire.
Sheriff’s Deputies and State Police arrested Vaughn at the scene and charged him with night time burglary and 1st degree arson.
Quick action by the Sutton Volunteer Fire Department confined the blaze to Vaughn’s apartment. The blaze was battled by twelve members and two engines of the Sutton Department who were assisted by a third engine and eight firefighters from Gassaway. Fire personnel remained on scene for nearly three hours extinguishing hot spots and completing their investigation. The blaze is believed to have caused over $65,000 damage to the structure.
Vaughn, 50, was lodged in the Central Regional Jail at press-time awaiting arraignment. The investigation is continuing.

Former resident honored for volunteer work
Ware achieves personal goal by helping others

Bethany McCallister, Andrea Ware, and Amanda Heaton at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K in Morgantown.

A former Braxton resident was recently named Volunteer of the Month for her work with the Make a Wish Foundation. Andrea Ware, a 2002 graduate of Braxton County High School, and her friend Amanda Heaton shared the honor for the month of October.
Ware and Heaton have been working with Make a Wish for a year, and she said she truly enjoys it. She explained her role in the process of fulfilling the wishes of children with life-threatening health conditions. “They pick a child, and then we interview the child and the family. After we obtain necessary information for the Foundation, we build a relationship with them. We also provide activities for each child before the wish is actually fulfilled,” she said.
For example, one four year old girl with cancer wanted to go to Lego Land in California. Her wish was granted, and before she and her family left for California, the Make a Wish representatives held a party for her. Another, a little boy whose wish was to have a swing set, received a party to “unveil” the swing set. This is the type of volunteer work which Ware has been doing for the Make a Wish Foundation.
Obviously busy with this particular agency, WVU graduate Ware, who has a career with Key Logic, recently challenged herself to fulfill a much more time-consuming goal. She explained, “I turned thirty in September (2013), and I thought of how everyone makes a big deal about reaching thirty. Then I said to myself, ‘If the thirtieth birthday really is supposed to be a milestone in one’s life, then I should make mine a milestone.’”
To do just that, the young woman decided to complete 30 different charitable acts between her thirtieth and her thirty-first birthdays. And she did it. These acts ranged from simple donations to some organizations to physically participating with others. For example, she donated money to a 5K Run sponsored by Ranae Winemiller and to Chris Bly for No-Shave November. Both Winemiller and Bly graduated from Braxton County High.
Ware also worked with Empty Bowl, a homeless shelter in Morgantown. She explained that this organization has a day during which volunteers can go to the shelter, make a donation, eat soup, and make bowls to take home with them.
Other charitable organizations which she helped included United Way and the Disabled Veterans’ fund. At Christmas, Ware “bought groceries for a local family” and later was part of her company’s Relay for Life team.
Asked why she chose to do all of this, the daughter of Rusty and Lisa Ware explained that she had seen a bracelet with a quote from Anne Frank earlier that summer. The quote, which left a definite impression on her, reads, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Ware said, “That statement is true. I enjoyed my thirtieth year.” Then she added, “It’s over, but I don’t plan to stop.” She obviously took Anne Frank’s words to heart.

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