Friday, March 7, 2003

Admirers help out a champ

Events to benefit retired pastor in battling illnesses

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Middletown High Principal Dennis Newell leans over to shake the hand of former Middie and UK basketball star Shelby Linville on Tuesday after the student government presented an oversize check for $1,055 it raised.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
MIDDLETOWN - He gave his all on the basketball court while helping Middletown High School and the University of Kentucky to championships, and then Shelby Linville made it his life's work to help others.

Now friends, fans and admirers of the 73-year-old retired pastor are trying to pay him back, as he battles through a series of life-threatening illnesses.

A fund-raising dinner in Linville's honor is set for Monday evening at Capozzi's Italian Restaurant in Middletown, the hometown he helped put on basketball's map.

Linville led the Middies to state championships in 1946 and 1947 and earned Ohio Player of the Year honors in 1948 before traveling south to Lexington, to play for coach Adolph Rupp. The lanky forward was a starter on Kentucky's 1951 NCAA championship team, which also featured future NBA stars Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagan, and his play earned him a place on that year's NCAA All-Tournament Team.

The Shelby Linville Benefit Dinner at Capozzi's Italian Restaurant, 3530 Central Ave., Middletown, is from 5 to 8 p.m Monday

Tickets are $15 each and will include a cash bar. Attendees will have a chance to win University of Kentucky memorabilia, autographed by head basketball coach Tubby Smith.

For information and tickets, call Capozzi's at (513) 422-3882 or Jim Porter at (937) 746-8758. Those interested in donating to the Linvilles' medical fund may also do so by sending a check, payable to Shelby Linville - or if you wish to donate anonymously, make it payable to Jim Porter - and mail to Porter at 3354 Bechtel Drive, Franklin, OH 45005.

But anyone who has met Linville knows that basketball statistics are among the smallest measures of his life. The former pastor of the Roselawn Baptist Church in Middletown has been known for decades for his friendliness and selfless dedication to those in need, often at his own expense.

"He is very giving and thoughtful," said close friend Ed "Skeeter" Payne, former Middletown athletic director. "That's why he went into the ministry. He was an outstanding player and a legend in his time ... but he is an even better human being."

Jim Porter, known locally as "Ohio's No. 1 UK Fan," described Linville as "a special person and a very special friend."

Payne and Porter spearheaded the Monday dinner, which will feature the raffling of autographed UK memorabilia, after learning about Linville's battle with an abdominal aortic aneurysm that almost killed him in November. Linville has also weathered prostate cancer and angioplasty.

His wife of 49 years, Yvonne, will also benefit from the proceeds. She is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor and an operation to install a pacemaker.

Last month, Middletown High School held a pep rally in honor of Linville and students, staff and alumni donated $1,055 to the Linvilles' medical care. Earlier this week, school officials and students surprised Linville at the Hawthorn Glen Nursing Center in Lemon Township with an oversized check from the pep rally.

It left the proud man in tears.

"But they're happy tears. It moved me deeply," said the soft-spoken but strong-willed Linville, who despite early predictions from doctors that he might never walk again expects to do so after six more weeks of physical rehabilitation at the center.

He is unable to attend the dinner, but said he couldn't begin to voice his gratitude. The community's generosity has further fired his already feisty spirit.

"You have to fight your way through and I haven't quite yet," he vowed this week.


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