FOLLANSBEE - Officials who worked beside the late Liberatore "L.A." Orsini said they will remember his willingness to work "above and beyond" for the betterment of area schools and to help area students and his grace under pressure.
"West Liberty University mourns the death of its longtime friend and former financial director, Libby Orsini. He remained loyal to the Hilltopper campus throughout his life and his influence is visible in the many buildings and infrastructure we use today," WLU President Robin Capehart said of Orsini, who died Monday at the age of 87.
Orsini is strongly associated with the former West Liberty State College, now WLU, for which he served as director of finance and assistant business professor for 39 years.
He began his lengthy tenure with the school as its business manager, a position he held while also teaching and advising students at its former Wheeling campus.
Over the years he played a key role in the planning and development of 29 building projects at the school, including the Paul N. Elbin Library and Krise Hall, both in 1979; and Bartell Fieldhouse in 1980.
He also served on many boards, including the college's foundation board, the Hall of Fame committee, committees formed to select two presidents of the college and the Hilltopper Club, which raises athletic scholarships for students.
Former WLSC President Clyde Campbell said over the years he has met hundreds of students whose financial constraints might have led them to drop out of college if not for Orsini's help.
"Somehow Libby would work something out, whether it was a loan or a scholarship," Campbell recalled.
He described Orsini as "a very effective business manager," adding he and other college officials knew without question that Orsini's financial records would pass routine state and federal audits "with flying colors."
Orsini also is remembered fondly by Tony Paesano, whose many associations with him include serving as members of the Brooke County Schools Education Foundation, a volunteer nonprofit group that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for thousands of Brooke High School graduates.
Paesano said when he approached Orsini about serving on the board, he was happy to help local teens further their educations.
"He made a big difference and made a positive impact on a lot of people's lives," he said.
A former Follansbee High School teacher, Orsini also served as president and member of the Brooke County Board of Education from 1970 to 1982, a period that included the opening of Brooke High School and the consolidations of several primary schools.
Former fellow board member Jerry Hamill said the board's decisions weren't always popular with the public, but Orsini gracefully accepted criticism and never closed his ears to citizens' concerns.
Campbell said Orsini wasn't always in an enviable position as finance director for the college, with many school officials clamoring for funds and not everyone happy with limitations imposed by limited funds.
"But Libby weathered all of that. And the faculty and administration liked him because he was honest and forthright," he said, adding, "I cannot be too high in my praise for the work he did."
Born in Italy in 1931, Orsini came to the U.S. and Follansbee with his parents when he was very young. His father was a Follansbee Steel employee and World War I veteran.
In one area, Orsini would follow in his father's footsteps, enlisting in the Navy in 1943. He and other crew members of the USS Tracy fought in seven major battles and earned seven battle stars over a three-year period in the South Pacific.
"We've lost a true patriot," Paesano said.
Orsini later served as secretary and president of the National Naval Minewarfare Association, a group of naval veterans living throughout the U.S.
Orsini also was a member of St. Anthony Catholic Church and its Holy Name Society, the Delta Sigma Phi national business fraternity, Follansbee Lions Club and Weirton Knights of Columbus.
Orsini was named to the Brooke County Schools and West Liberty University walls of fame and following his retirement in 1994, was named WLSC's director of finance emeritus.
Campbell noted Orsini was a graduate of WLSC, his wife, Dora, also taught there and his son Ronald was a Hilltopper also. Outside his office, Orsini was known to recruit many students to the school, he recalled.
"He was an ambassador for West Liberty," agreed Paesano.
Campbell said, "He truly loved the school and everyone loved him. He always went far above and beyond what the job required."
Visitation for Orsini will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, with a vigil service at 8:30 p.m. Friday, at James Funeral Home. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Anthony Catholic Church.
Memorial contributions may be made to the West Liberty University Athletic Fund, 208 University Drive, West Liberty, WV 26074 or St. Anthony Catholic Church, 1017 Virginia Ave., Follansbee, WV 26037.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com)