“Voice of the Rockets” silent after 50 years in athletics


Wellston Athletics

Robert “Bob” Walton, the longtime “Voice of the Wellston Golden Rockets,” passed away recently in Rochester, Minn. as the result of complications from his second bout with cancer. He was 60. Since 1980, Walton was active in announcing Wellston High School football, basketball and baseball games. Overall, Walton was involved in Wellston athletics for over 50 years.

Whether it be officiating, or sports broadcasting, there will likely never be another Bob Walton.

Robert “Bob” Walton, the longtime “Voice of the Wellston Golden Rockets,” passed away on Friday in Rochester, Minn. as the result of complications from his second bout with cancer. He was 60.

While Walton served Wellston and Jackson County in numerous capacities, including from owning a bakery to becoming the county’s Clerk of Courts, Walton was best known in Wellston as the “Voice of the Golden Rockets.”

“Bob was, and always had been, a huge supporter of all our student-athletes and he was a big part of WHS athletics,” said Wellston High School athletic director Jeff Hendershott. “He loved being involved with the kids, the games, and all the sports. He gave freely of his time and never asked for anything in return. Bob was also one-of-a-kind, he was one of the funniest people I have ever known. He meant alot to all of us. He’ll be sadly missed by the entire Golden Rocket community. We will definitely do something to honor ‘the voice of the Rockets’ during the upcoming football season.”

Since 1980, Walton was active in announcing Wellston High School football, basketball and baseball games. Including his days as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Golden Rocket football team, Walton was involved in Wellston athletics for over 50 years.

“Show me someone else who has been involved with Wellston youth and Wellston sports for five decades,” said Wellston softball coach Rick Perdue. “There was no one like him and there won’t be anyone else like him. He’s irreplaceable. It’s hard to imagine Wellston, Jackson County, life in general without Bob Walton.”

Perdue, who knew Walton for over 40 years, officiated with Walton before the two began broadcasting sporting events together.

The duo began umpiring baseball and softball games together in the late 1970s, and had a chance to officiate several home tilts for the 1979 Wellston softball squad. The Lady Rockets advanced to the regional finals before losing to Jackson.

“I always kidded Bobby about this, but with all the home games we umpired for the 1979 team, we should have been named honorary members of the team,” joked Perdue.

Walton was found to be a fair and honest umpire, and quickly gained the respect and admiration of coaches in the area. In 1983, Walton expanded his officiating duties to include football. Perdue also officiated football games with Walton.

“As an official, Bobby was fair to both teams,” he said. “He cared about youth in general.”

That statement was definitely true when it came to Walton’s radio broadcasts.

Walton first began broadcasting games during the 1979-80 school year as Perdue was his partner on the football broadcasts. For the first time, parents and grandparents who were unable to attend the games could listen to their son or grandson’s play-by-play.

Walton was also the creator and original host of “The Jim Derrow Show”, as Derrow became the head boys basketball coach at Wellston in 1986.

Twenty-one years later, Derrow is still the head coach of the Rockets, and his weekly radio show still airs during the season.

“Bob was very instrumental in the concept (The Jim Derrow Show),” said Derrow. “The first five years we did it, Bob would often get soundbites from the players or myself and use them on the show. It made the players feel good that their names were on the radio. At the high school level, that’s very important. But Bob was good at anything he did. He always did anything to help out.”

Walton did both play-by-play and color commentary for the Rocket broadcasts, whether it be football, basketball or baseball.

During a stretch in which the basketball team won 72 of 90 games and made two trips to the Division III district tournament, Walton was the color man alongside then play-by-play announcer Ken Miller.

Walton had several broadcast partners over the years, including J.R. Ervin, Walter “Bub” Norris, Bob Willis and Paul Boggs Sr. But, while Walton’s partners in the booth may have changed, his endearment to players never did.

Walton made sure that each player’s name was mentioned on the radio, and often gave the players nicknames. He also mentioned the parents or grandparents of the players.

“That was his personal touch, talking about each kid, even at the spur of the moment, and making every kid feel special,” said Perdue. “He was just a great supporter of athletes.”

Whether it be officiating or announcing, Walton was also witty when it came to his discussions or interviews with players.

“He was very personable and had a good rapport with kids,” said Perdue. “For example, when we were officiating, when a player got mad about something, Bobby would start talking or joking with them and the next thing you see is that kid smiling or laughing. We call that preventive officiating, but it’s very necessary. He had a great way of dealing with people.”

While Walton was all about youth as an official or an announcer, he still “bled Blue and Gold like nobody else” according to Perdue.

“There are a lot of us who are great supporters of Wellston athletics, but we don’t compare to him,” he said.

Derrow offered some examples of that passionate support.

“He would work all day, then drive from Wellston to Belpre on a Tuesday night to call a game and then drive back and go to work the next day. He might have been given gas mileage or something, but I think he just volunteered his time. There are not too many people that would do that,” said Derrow. “When we went to the Convo (Ohio University Convocation Center) for the district tournament, he helped organize the caravans and decorate the cars. He just did whatever he could to help.”

While Walton, a 1965 graduate of Wellston High School, did play football for the Rockets, he was never recognized for his athletic ability. He was honored, however, for his contributions to Wellston athletics with his induction into the Wellston High School Athletic Hall of Fame on March 15.

Walton returned to Wellston for the school’s winter sports banquet from Minnesota, where he had been undergoing treatments for his second bout with cancer in a three-year period.

“I was glad he was named to the Hall of Fame and was able to come back for that,” said Derrow. “So many times people are honored like that after they have died. Although Bob was not 100-percent, it was great to see him there.”

But now, as Perdue said, “a man like no other” has passed.

In addition to his involvement with athletics, Walton was also the former owner of Bob’s Bakery and Bob’s Texaco Station in Wellston, and was a member and deacon at the First Baptist Church in Wellston. He was the present Jackson County Clerk of Courts, operating the Jackson County Title Department and License Bureau.

Among his activities and organizations were the Jackson County Republican Party, the Wellston Rotary Club, Sylvester Memorial Library Board in Wellston, the Jackson-Vinton Community Action Board and the Metropolitan Housing Board.

“We want to be selfish and hold onto him, but Bob’s in a better place,” said Perdue. “God wanted him and now God will permanently heal him.”

Contributions can be made to the First Baptist Church in Wellston, 106 S. Pennsylvania Ave, Wellston, Ohio 45692, or to The Big W Football Club, P.O. Box 489, Wellston, Ohio 45692.

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