BELLWOOD - One by one, Ann Nesbella informed the Bellwood-Antis High School track and field coaches and athletic director John Hayes on Monday that she was retiring as the program's public address announcer and pressbox manager, but, three hours later, she already seemed to be hedging on that.
"If you have an emergency, you can call me next year," Nesbella said. "Maybe I'll think about it and reconsider."
It would be hard to imagine a Bellwood home track meet without her, though. Now 82, Nesbella just wrapped up her 30th year as the voice of B-A track. In fact, she's been behind the mike so long that neither she nor Lady Devil coach Julie Roseborough could recall exactly how it started - it's just like she's always been there.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Ann Nesbella has been the announcer for Bellwood-Antis track and field meets for 30 years.
"My daughter probably would have been a sophomore or junior in high school. She was the girls manager for Miss R. back then. Before that time, I didn't go to track meets," Nesbella said. "I volunteered, I guess."
A registered nurse in Altoona for 44 years who also works Altoona Curve baseball games, Nesbella has been a fixture at Memorial Stadium, seldom missing Bellwood home meets.
"She gives us the freedom not to worry what's happening up in the booth and that things are running smoothly. We don't have to worry about the organization," Roseborough said of Nesbella's contributions to the Bellwood track programs. "And she's a bit of a character, so that adds some fun to it, too."
A basketball player at Bellwood-Antis when that was the only girls sport offered by the school in the late 1940s, Nesbella loves athletics. She's a big football fan, in particular, and proudly talks about her grandson Devon Clapper being part of the great Blue Devil teams a little less than a decade ago.
She said it was that love was a big part of what kept her involved even after her daughter had graduated, but it goes deeper.
"I think it was just the enjoyment of doing it and seeing these young kids and what they can do. All kids aren't bad. We had a lot of wonderful kids. And I'd follow the progress they made, to see how they developed and matured," Nesbella said. "Plus, the people - John, Nick and Miss R. Miss R.'s an inspiration. One of the things I remember most is the event where they honored her and named the track. She's beyond a doubt one of the most beautiful people I have met."
Nesbella no longer drives - "Bessie wouldn't pass inspection," she quipped - and has a harder time getting around than she used to. That's why she thinks, despite the feelings of her colleagues to the contrary, that it's time to pass the baton, so to speak.
"Let's just say health issues. Nothing major, but about two or three minor things. John won't get me an escalator. He says it's not in the budget," Nesbella said. "Maybe no one else notices, but I notice that I'm making more mistakes in my announcing, and I don't like it. I guess one could say I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to this."
That doesn't mean Nesbella won't still be around. Even if she isn't working the meets, she'd like to come back, especially for the Bellwood-Antis Invitational.
"It just evolved," Nesbella said. "It's been 30 wonderful years, and I've loved every minute of it."