Harry Russell Potts Jr. ’58

The caption beneath his yearbook picture reads: “When there is mischief in the air, he’s the one who put it there.” Russ Potts will be remembered for much more than the mischief he was alleged to have created as a student at Handley.

Russ received his degree in Journalism at the University of Maryland with a minor in Government and Politics. He started his career as a sports journalist for the Loudoun Times Mirror and the Winchester Evening Star.

He was the Executive Director of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in 1969-70. Along with his friend Dick Kern, he was a co-founder of the festival’s Sports Breakfast.

Russ returned to the University of Maryland as the Director of Sports Promotions becoming the first person in history of college athletics to hold the position. He left Maryland to become the Athletic Director at Southern Methodist University and later became the Vice President of the Chicago White Sox. Russ was inducted into 6 Halls of Fame.

He returned to Winchester and founded Russ Potts Productions, Inc. One of the first broadcasts produced by the company was “The Game of the Century” with Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown vs. Ralph Sampson’s University of Virginia in 1982.

Harry Russell Potts Jr. '58 | Handley 100th Notable

Russ was elected as a Republican to the Virginia State Senate four times. He was proud to serve as Chair of the Senate Health and Education Committee as it allowed him to provide support to Virginia public schools. In the Senate, he would always talk about his love of Handley and the teachers who helped him along the way. He was named Senator of the Year by 13 different state associations.

Russ ran for Governor of Virginia as an Independent in 2005. He retired from the Senate in 2007.

Following his retirement from the Senate of Virginia, Russ was recruited to lead the Handley High School Capital Campaign to raise funds for the renovation. Once the renovation was completed, he served as the Executive Director of the Winchester Education Foundation.

In total, Russ was involved in raising approximately $20,000,000 to support the school renovation, facility upgrades, and educational programs. Of his many accomplishments, the work he did on behalf of Handley High School and the school children of Winchester brought him the most satisfaction. He wanted the best for all students and staff with the absolute best facilities in the country. He was especially proud of the over $4,000,000 he helped to raise for the Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center just prior to his passing in December 2021.

Activity Speaker Series

Part 2 “Judge Handley and the Handley Bequests” by Garland R. Quarles

Part two of a two-part book discussion about Judge Handley, his bequests to Winchester, and the formation and role of the Handley Trust. Facilitated by Kimberli Ball, Attorney and Vice-Chair of the Handley 100th Celebration, and by Dennis McLoughlin, Attorney and Chair of the Handley Board of Trustees.

Activity Speaker Series

Part 1 “Judge Handley and the Handley Bequests” by Garland R. Quarles

Part one of a two-part book discussion about Judge Handley, his bequests to Winchester, and the formation and role of the Handley Trust. Facilitated by Kimberli Ball, Attorney and Vice-Chair of the Handley 100th Celebration, and by Dennis McLoughlin, Attorney and Chair of the Handley Board of Trustees.

Activity Program Series

Celebrating John Handley’s 189th Birthday

Original Dramatization: “A Journey with the Judge”.


David Pleacher – Faculty

Described as creative in his instruction, focused, intellectual, fun, and a faithful teacher, David Pleacher taught math at Handley for 33 years. Beginning in 1973, he taught calculus and later taught the first computer programming class at Handley using two TRS-80 computers for 15 students. He chaired the mathematics department from 1983 – 1995.

Angela Cutshaw, a former student and currently a teacher in Winchester Public Schools, stated, “Mr. Pleacher challenged me to study and pursue scholarly ideas. He held students to a high standard, applauded our achievements, and encouraged us when we failed to understand. He was not content to teach the same each year. He evolved, contributed, researched, wrote, and tried new things.”

David enjoyed sponsoring the Games Club, the math competitions, and Intramural Bowling. He created the Handley Math Page, his math website that he continues to maintain.

David’s work was recognized outside of the halls of Handley. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching from President Ronald Reagan and was selected to participate in the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Math Institute at Princeton University.

He received the William C. Lowry Outstanding Mathematics Teacher Award from Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Tandy Corporation’s Technology Scholars Award, and the Winchester Rotary Club’s Teacher of Influence Award.

After retiring from Handley, David and his wife Carol moved to Colorado where they volunteered with various organizations and visited 55 of the 63 national parks. 

David recently wrote: “Throughout my 33 years at Handley, I had the distinct pleasure of working with an exceptional faculty who was dedicated to educating the young people of Winchester.  During most of my years, there was very little turnover among the faculty, which speaks well of the learning environment, the support of the administration, and the quality of our students.  Many of the teachers in the math department taught together for 25 years or more.  “I am indebted to my students, whose curiosity, enthusiasm, and work ethic fueled my own love for teaching.  Handley pride is real, and I am proud to call myself a Handley teacher.  I have countless memories of my days at Handley, including the opportunity to teach all three of my own children and the children of many colleagues and church members.  Handley was a source of pride for the entire community and you don’t find that in most locations around the country.”  


Eleanor Gertrude Ritter Peery – Faculty

Gertrude Ritter graduated from the Winchester High School in 1917. She took a postgraduate course there in 1917-1918.  An accomplished pianist, she took violin lessons playing on her grandfather’s fiddle and played violin in the first high school orchestra in Winchester.

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Randolph-Macon Women’s College in June 1922. After her graduation from R-MWC, she continued her education at the University of Virginia during the summer of 1924 and the American Academy at Rome, Italy during the summer of 1926. She married Alan Peery in 1929.

Miss Ritter was a member of the original faculty of Handley High School. She taught Latin from 1922 until 1954 when she became Assistant Principal in charge of guidance and the supervision of instruction. She retired as Assistant Principal in 1965.

During her 43 year career with Winchester Public Schools, Gertrude Ritter Peery was responsible for the preparation of a high school course of study and for the development of chapel program.  She was faculty advisor for the Executive Council for 27 years, sponsor for six classes and a coach for girls’ basketball.

Mrs. Peery served as President of the local chapter of the American Association of University Women and President of Winchester Education Association. She was President of the Virginia Division of the Classical Association and a speaker before the National Classical Association at St. Louis, Missouri. She served on the Board of Directors of Randolph-Macon Women’s College.

She was a member of the Fredericktown Garden Club and Kiwanis Ki-wives. She was the Quota Club’s “Woman of the Year” in 1949.

She was an active member of Preservation of Historic Winchester, the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, the Shenandoah Arts Council, and the American Legion Auxiliary.

After her retirement, she and her husband traveled extensively. Mrs. Peery died in Winchester in 1988.


Harold Patton ’39

Harold Patton spent his life serving his country, building a family business, and making Winchester a better community in which to live. He was a three sport athlete at Handley participating in football, basketball and track and was inducted into the Hunter Maddex Hall of Fame in 1990.

Harold served in the Headquarters of the US Army’s 29th Division in the European Theater during World War II and was the recipient of a Bronze Star for meritorious service. He was a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and served as the local commander.

After returning from Germany, he married Laura Jean Forney, Handley Class of 1940. Harold and Jean owned and operated Patton’s Furniture Sales and Patton’s Moving and Storage. For over 65 years, Patton’s Furniture Sales in downtown Winchester has been managed by three generations of the Patton family, all of whom have been Handley graduates.

Harold was very active in the community. He was President of the Winchester-Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. He was a director of the Commercial and Savings Bank, the Valley of Virginia Bank, and Dominion Bank. He was on the original board of the William and Henry Evans Home and he worked with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival for many years.

Harold was on the first Board of Trustees of Shenandoah College and Conservatory when the school relocated from Dayton, Virginia. As the treasurer of the building fund for eight years, he was instrumental in the development of Shenandoah’s Winchester campus.

Harold was an active member of the Braddock Street United Methodist Church. He served as Chairman of the Official Board, Chairman of the Finance Committee and
Chairman of the Trustees.


James Omps ’53

Jimmy Omps was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by the Class of 1953. He played basketball at Handley for Coach Hunter Maddex and was manager of the football team before going to Shepherd College.

Jimmy was a three-year basketball starter for Shepherd making a career average of 76% of his free throws. He was a member of Shepherd’s first track and field team in 1954 and served as the trainer for its undefeated 1955 football team. He was inducted into the Shepherd University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from Shepherd, Jimmy went on to earn a Masters of Education degree from the University of Virginia. He returned to teach math at Handley in 1959 and worked with Coach Maddex as an assistant football coach and JV basketball coach. When Coach Maddex retired in 1967, Jimmy became varsity basketball coach and athletic director.

The Hunter Maddex-Jimmy Omps Gymnasium at John Handley High School is named for the two remarkable coaches and athletic directors. Hunter Maddex and Jimmy Omps coached at total of 664 varsity basketball games for Handley between 1946 and 1974. Their teams won approximately 63% of all games played.

Coach Omps was the Athletic Director at Handley until his retirement in 1995. The Shepherdstown Chronicle described him as “a symbol-statesman of the athletic excellence that was Handley High for many years” in an article published in August 2023. The article continued: “he’s more than a well-respected gentleman, who when mentioned among the sport’s dignitaries and greats in Virginia, can bring a smile to the faces of those who played for him, participated in games he officiated or knew him from his years at Shepherd.”

The Virginia Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association selected Coach Omps as the Athletic Administrator of the Year in 1977. At the recommendation of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Past Presidents, he was selected as the individual to receive the organization’s top award, the Thomas E. Frederick Award of Excellence, upon his retirement in 1995.

Coach Omps was the first person to be inducted into the Hunter Maddex Hall of Fame twice. He was inducted as a player in 1992 and as a coach in 2016.

The Trail Blazer

January 17, 1924

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Charles Hudson Miller ’35

Hudson Miller attended Handley during the height of the Great Depression. All he wanted to do when he attended Handley was play football for the school team and graduate.

The Miller family was not affluent. Many young men in that era opted to drop out of school to work if they could find a job but his mother, Margaret Catherine Miller, would not allow him to do so. She was a graduate of the Winchester High School and was a kindergarten teacher at John Kerr School.

The Millers opened their home on South Cameron Street to boarders when Hudson’s father, Ernest, could not find work as a carpenter. Wanting to help the family, Hudson took a job in the morning delivering the Washington Post and a second job delivering the Winchester Evening Star in the afternoon. Hudson gave up his goal of playing football for Handley in order to help his family get by during the depression.

Several of the boarders who lived at the Hudson home worked at the Virginia Woolen Mill on Piccadilly Street. Hudson graduated in 1935 and obtained a job at the mill shortly after graduation.

The Virginia Woolen Mill made blankets for the Army during World War II. Hudson was not drafted as he was involved in the production of essential war supplies. He became a supervisor at the mill and was employed there when the mill closed in 1957.

Hudson moved his family to Maryland for a short time before returning to Winchester to start a driver education school that he ran until he retired. He told his grandchildren that he had started driving when he was 13 years old because his father did not like to drive and had let him become the chauffeur for the family.

Hudson did not get to play football for Handley but he did graduate. His grandson said he was a good person, a great father and a wonderful grandfather. His daughter and 5 grandchildren followed him and became Handley graduates.