"Due to Hall of Fame budget cuts, we have no champagne to pour on our inductees tonight," joked Tom Calanni, Assistant Superintendent of Ravenna Schools. "We have Diet Pepsi for this purpose."
Spared this sticky fate, the nine inductees were doused instead with the praise of some 200 peers who gathered at Immaculate Conception Hall on West Spruce Street in Ravenna.
Former NFL player Don Nottingham, a 1967 Ravenna graduate, recalled how he had "a knack for knocking people down." He has had many nicknames over the years: "Windham Flash," "Speedy," "Notts," and "Squeaks," his least favorite.
" 'You call me Squeaks, I'll knock you down,' I used to tell them," said Nottingham. As a professional, he once separated a linebacker's shoulder. As a result, he was deemed "The Human Bowling Ball." He also played with the 1971 Baltimore Colts, who defeated Dallas in the Super Bowl.
Nottingham looked over the audience. He saw Judge Robert Kent _ also an inductee _ and joked how the Judge had once taken his license for 30 days. But he also recalled how Mrs. Kent had helped him learn to read.
"I get goosebumps thinking about where I come from," he said. "That's what Ravenna is about _ people helping one another."
Dale Fosnight, a 1941 graduate of Ravenna and former president of the Ravenna Board of Education, echoed Nottingham's sentiments.
"In all my life, I never thought there was a better place to live than Ravenna. A night like tonight bears this out."
When presenting inductee Carol Davidson Foley, the Rev. Mark Simone, a Ravenna graduate, said that his hair, teeth and taste in cloths improved the moment he met her. Guitar in hand, he then praised her with lyrics to the tune of "Heartbreak Hotel."
Foley, who founded with her husband the Cleveland BoyChoir, echoed Nottingham's thoughts, saying "it is such an honor to have grown up in Ravenna."
She recalled her earliest influences and the paths that lead her toward music.
"Music lifts the soul, warms the heart, frees the spirit," she said, fighting tears. "It makes us better human beings. I'm grateful I learned this at Ravenna. Thank you."
"What a privilege it is to share in this occasion with so many distinguished people," said honorary inductee Art Fesemyer, who is credited for introducing computer technology to Ravenna schools. "Never did one person owe so much to so many as I. Thank you ... so much."
Dean Hartung, a 1974 graduate who is famed as a mural painter, recalled when someone said "Like his art ... he (Hartung) ought to be hung.
"But one place I never thought I would be hung is in the Ravenna Hall of Fame," he said. "You can only have one real home. Mine is Ravenna."
Other inductees include scholar Dr. Mary Cipriano Silva, a 1956
Ravenna graduate; Jeffery West, a 1971 graduate who played with the
NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Chargers and
Seattle Seahawks; and honarary inductee Ronald Snowberger, who served
the Ravenna School District in various capacities for 33 years.