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Thais Blatnik remembered as mentor in Wheeling

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The Ohio Valley is remembering a lawmaker, reporter, and well-known community member, as Thais Blatnik died Wednesday at the age of 96.

She was born and raised in the Ohio Valley, and many are remembering her as a mentor.

Bob Gaudio met Blatnik in the late 1960s. He was a teenager and Blatnik was a volunteer at a church retreat aimed at helping teens find direction and spirituality.

He now lives in the one-room schoolhouse Thais and Al Blatnik transformed into a unique home.

The house sits on the way to West Liberty University and is surrounded by dozens of pine trees. The trees were planted by Al and Thais Blatnik many years ago when Al was once Athletics Director at then-West Liberty State College.

When he would bring student recruits to dinner at the couple's home, Thais told the student not to bring a cover dish, but instead a sapling to plant a tree.

"Now our yard is filled with 60-70 foot pines trees along our house, which is a memory of them," Gaudio said. "And when I leave and get in my car, I think of Al and Thais and all the kids that worked their way through WLU's athletic program."

Gaudio certainly looked up to the couple.

"Equal pay for equal work, women's rights across the board and it was unusual in those days. And to have known her as the renaissance women that she was, she was sort of a mentor for me as a young man."

Gaudio says Thais was active and generous and worked tirelessly as a legislator. She championed a bill that gave police the ability to arrest men for abusing their wives and helped increase funding for domestic violence programs across the state.

Blatnik started her career in journalism as a newspaper writer, but was much more to many.

"She was aggressive, intelligent, educated at West Liberty and ready to go when she got done with college. She wanted to be a writer. She was active in her community and she succeeded in all areas, including raising great kids," Gaudio said.

West Virginia's tourism commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin is Blatnik's granddaughter.

A viewing will be held at from 2-5 p.m. at Altmeyer's Funeral Home in Wheeling.

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