SHARON – Ed McCullough may be one of Mercer County’s most decorated athletes. But one of his finest moments occurred recently in virtual anonymity. And, no, he was not submerged in water, though that is his natural habitat.
McCullough made a $3,500 donation to his home away from home, the Buhl Community Recreation Center. Funds were earmarked toward improvements in the natatorium, including plastic lane lines, an apparatus to economically wind the lines, and storage space.
“All the years I’ve been here (45) I’ve worked out at this pool, and this is where I (trained to) win a lot of championships. So I feel I should give back,” the humble McCullough explained. “I started here, oh, late (19)60’s, swimming, and I’ve volunteered as a lifeguard (currently, three mornings per week).”
“I’ve been here since two-thousand-and-sixteen and had the pleasure of meeting a lot of great people in this community, particularly people who are a part of our Buhl Club team, and one of them is Ed,” related BCRC Executive Director Jason Kmick. “He’s always been very kind to me, supportive of me, gives feedback when it’s necessary, and has helped us improve the aquatics program.
“There were times when I first got here that the staff was lean, and Ed was one of the consistent people who were here to help keep things moving while we were sort of transitioning from the ‘old Buhl Club’ that is hopefully gonna become the ‘new (BCRC),’” Kmick continued. “So we’re just very fortunate to have someone like him. We’re lucky that he happened to pick us, to have this place to improve his (times), his health, his life. I’m just very fortunate to have gotten to know Ed.
“And when he approached us about giving back to the Buhl Club, I was a little bit shocked and taken aback, but I’m not surprised. Given the character and the kind of guy that Ed is, it certainly makes sense. And we really, really appreciate it,” Kmick praised.
Still slender and swimming at age 81, McCullough made his mark as “a nationally-renowned senior swimmer (who) has established numerous state and national records,” according to his biography on the occasion of his 2004 Mercer County Hall of Fame induction.
McCullough morphed from the scholastic basketball hardwood to the collegiate, chlorinated waters while a Slippery Rock (University) State College student. There (1957-61) he won individual (200-yard backstroke) and relay-team (400 medley) Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships. He also stood 6th in the NAIA Championships (200 IM).
Subsequently, he competed in his 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s in Masters Division events. McCullough captured so many age-group AAU and YMCA state and national championships (an elite AAU National Top Ten Team berth, and dominating performances at the Ohio State Bicentennial Senior Olympics and Pennsylvania Keystone State Games) that he filled an entire room in his Daugherty St. home with mementoes and photos.
Though he has not competed for a few years, a previous Herald article estimated McCullough amassed 156 medals and/or plaques, while logging 15,000-plus miles (in 25-yard increments) in a 50-year competitive career. He also served 3-plus decades as a PIAA (and Mercer County’s first licensed) swimming official, and helped found and serve as president for the PIAA’s Shenango Valley Swimming Officials chapter.
McCullough devoted 3-plus decades as a decorated (Ohio Centennial Teacher and Presidential Award for Excellence nominee) Brookfield High biology/human physiology teacher.
“What do you do when you work somewhere, and your (former) high school biology teacher starts working for you and won’t let you call him ‘Mr. McCullough’”? rhetorically asked BCRC Aquatics Director Chuck Dunkerley, his respect for McCullough still evident.
A Claysville (Washington County) native, McCullough makes no pretense: The BCRC, specifically its second-story swimming pool, is his home away from home.
“That’s exactly right!” he emphasized, later adding, “and I appreciate it.”
“All of the donation that Ed made to the Buhl Club is going to be, one-hundred percent, put toward the pool,” Kmick said. “Even though we have a major capital campaign going on, one of the wishes that Ed had was that his donation go to where he’s spent much of his life, and we were able to do that. We got some new lane lines (5, making for 6 socially-distanced lanes). They went in this week, and there’s been a lot of positive feedback. It looks a little bit more like a ‘real’ pool.
“This is just the start,” Kmick continued. “This is something that we’ve wanted for a long time. We have a very tight budget, and we just kind’ve waited for the right time to do it and it never came along. Then Ed came along, and said, ‘Hey, I’m the guy to do this for you.’
“So we’re very fortunate to have you around, Ed,” Kmick said, directing his remarks to McCullough, and adding, “Hopefully we’ll have you around for a lot longer. It’s not a ‘good-bye’ gift; it’s a ‘here-to-stay’ gift, ‘cause we need you and we really appreciate you.”