Inaugural St. Joseph Area Sports Hall of Fame class honored

·2 min read

Sep. 20—Nearly 500 people gathered at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center Sunday evening to celebrate the induction of the inaugural St. Joseph Area Sports Commission Hall of Fame class.

Ten individuals and one team were recognized with a ceremony to celebrate their athletic accomplishments and contributions. Individuals must have been born in Buchanan, accomplished their feat in Buchanan County or be contributing to sports in Buchanan County at the present time.

"You only need to look at the resumes of my fellow inductees to realize that this was a worthwhile endeavor," said Cheri Kempf, a softball pioneer and Class of 2021inductee. "There's a lot of value in celebrating folks from St. Joseph, Missouri, who have made a huge impact in sports."

Individual inductees include: Wes Barnett, two-time Olympic weightlifter; Byron Browne, 10-year Major League Baseball veteran; Charlie Burri, first athletics director of Missouri Western State University; Newt Hillyard, founder of the Hillyard Companies; Julius Hochman, the 'Father of Boys Baseball' in St. Joseph; Terin Humphrey, two-time Olympic medalist gymnast; Henry Iba, Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame Coach; Cheri Kempf, softball pioneer; Mike Rucker, nine-year National Football League veteran; Bill Synder, College Football coaching legend; and the 1997-2003 Meierhoffer/St. Jo Frontier Casino Fastpitch Softball Team 1997-2003. The Commission will also honor a Special Olympics Athlete of the Year Presented by the Hook Foundation, which went to 1999 Special Olympics World Games medalist Mike Grossman.

"The City of St. Joe — you invested in me, and I'm proud," Rucker said. "I'm proud to be from St. Joe. You can ask any teammate, and they can tell you where I'm from, because I'm proud of that."

All seven living inductees, as well as members of the Meierhoffer/St. Jo Frontier Casino fastpitch softball team, were in attendance to be honored and speak.

In return, friends and family were on hand to hear honorees thank them for years of support and dedication.

"The people of this community formulated my life," Snyder said. "I have such a great appreciation for each and every one of those people in my life coming from St. Joseph, Missouri."

The St. Joseph Area Sports Hall of Fame was created in Nov. 2020, and nominees are already being accepted for next year's class with a ceremony planned for early fall.

Brandon Zenner can be reached at brandon.zenner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZenner.

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