From the Bench: Recalling the Life of Henry Drosky, the "Yup Yup Man," a Regular at Area Sports Events

By Jeff Toquinto on March 11, 2018 from Sports Blog via

When I was a kid growing up in North View, it wasn’t all that unusual to get with a few friends and catch a bus and head to downtown Clarksburg. Sometimes, we would save a few coins and walk the distance needed.
This was back in the day of downtown Clarksburg’s dominance in the area. There were dime stores, retail super stores and plenty of local businesses that we all remember. If you wanted to find a good place to eat, every block had a place or two for you to choose from.
Part of my earliest memories included me asking my father, who worked for years as the shipping department supervisor and warehouse manager for what was Parsons Souders and then Stone & Thomas, who the man was walking around with his radio saying the same word over and over.
“That’s just Henry,” my father told me. I was then told to “be sure and leave Henry alone, he’s kind and harmless.”
Back in my day, when mom or dad praised someone, no matter what, you listened. Considering dad knew a ton of people through his work in the old downtown area, there was no way myself or anyone in my group would bother this man named Henry.
Henry, as I would later learn, was Henry Drosky. You may not know the name whether your 14, 40 or 80. If you’re over 40, though, and I tell you the nickname “Yup, Yup” or as some referred to him as “yep, yep,” chances are you remember him.
Occasionally, I’m asked if I remember Henry or “Yup, Yup.” When I answer I most certainly do, I’m also asked about what happened to him. Some folks say they haven’t seen him for decades. There’s sadly a good reason for that.
It’s been more than 10 years since Henry passed away. He was 85 years old at the time of his death on Nov. 9, 2007. The last seven years of his life, according to several media reports, were spent in the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown.
Those early encounters with Henry were unique. You could watch and hear him and, even though my memory is fading, I can still remember him walking with a radio saying the catchphrase that became his nickname and getting excited about what he was listening to. I’m almost certain he was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and would laugh and get wound up as he listened to the radio he would hold to his ear.
After a while, Henry was as much a fixture in downtown Clarksburg as the statue of Stonewall Jackson at the Courthouse. And after a while, you didn’t see Henry as much. Apparently, Henry also spent plenty of time in Ripley and then ended up spending his later years in Morgantown.
The Ripley visits I found from several on-line articles about him. The Morgantown time I saw in person.
In my very earliest days of writing, which was exclusively in the sports field, I would spend a lot of time at West Virginia University. Usually, I would drive Jim Mearns and Ed Propst, both deceased and legends in their own right, to Morgantown for game coverage. I also would go up during the week for interviews of football and men’s basketball.
It was during those visits that I noticed Henry. The thing was that Henry wasn’t wandering on High Street or some other roadway, but rather he was in the athletic venues. He’s be in the hallway at the Coliseum, inside the practice facilities and often times inside the rooms where interviews were being conducted including Mountaineer Field.
Again, though my memory has faded, I recall Don Nehlen having a particular fondness for Henry. While Nehlen could be surly with the media, he was always kind to Henry; almost gentle to the point in a grandfatherly way. Again, just through Nehlen’s actions if anyone had concerns about Henry being around those concerns were answered by the coach’s actions.
As a youngster in my early 20s the kindness showed by Nehlen has never escaped me. He wasn’t the only one. Former men’s basketball Coach Gale Catlett, the late baseball coach Dale Ramsburg and former men’s soccer coach John McGrath also took care of Henry with lunch and even providing clothes. Sometimes, those things say more about a person than wins and losses, but that’s a topic for another day, another blog.
If you were at a sporting event at WVU or in Harrison and surrounding Counties during those days then you either knew who Herny was or you wondered who he was. He was that prominent.
The legend of Henry Drosky, though, goes well before my time. Al Cox, a 1960 Bridgeport High School graduate who got his early chops working by being in the radio business, recalls Henry back in the 1960s being the same fixture I remember Henry being in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I just remember seeing him everywhere and I actually mean everywhere,” said Cox, who went by the name Al Newton during his air time with WHAR. “I was covering the president’s trip (Lyndon Johnson) for the dedication of Summersville dam and I was in an area that was just packed tight with security. I hear these coins rattling loudly behind me and there’s Henry talking to himself in what you would say was the closest area to the president and the most highly secured area. To this day, I have no idea how he got there.”
Henry would get everywhere or anywhere because he was so well known, Cox said. Cox said he believed Henry lived in the East View area of Clarksburg. He’d walk to town or wherever he was going and if he wanted a ride “he’d just throw up his arm,” said Cox. “Without fail, someone would stop and pick him up and take him to where he was going.”
Cox said Henry’s demeanor, and his talking to himself over and over using his “yup, yup” phrase proved to be more of a curiosity to those that didn’t know him. Those that did, as my father told me upon my first encounter, knew it was just Henry, well, being Henry.
“He never intimidated anyone. He was a bit jerky and there was a twitch about him. I know kids found him interesting, but all the adults knew him and loved him. He was gentle to the core,” said Cox.
Cox was one of the few people that engaged Henry Drosky in conversation. He said Henry had a nervous voice, spoke in short phrases and didn’t look at you in the eye too long.
“He’d ask about how good Washington Irving would be and he loved to talk about the Pirates and WVU. I do know that he was knowledgeable about sports and he talked to me a lot because of my being on the radio,” said Cox. “He was a regular for games at the Nathan Goff Armory back when the media would sit at the top of the first section with the rail behind us and the walkway. You’d hear those coins in his pockets and he’d be right there. I remember he really liked Pete Lyman at WBOY and he’d always say ‘Pete Lyman, good man.’ It’s amazing, in his own way, how much joy Henry brought to all of us.”
He brought that joy to Clarksburg, Harrison County, Ripley, Morgantown and probably places none of us will ever know about. He was part of our culture and still talked about by many to this day.
You mention the words “yup, yup” to anyone past the age of 40 and chances are they’ll smile.
“The beauty was that no one made fun of him and I never saw people tease him. Everyone loved Henry and doing anything bad to him would have been off limits,” said Cox.
Indeed it would have been. No one picks on an icon.
Here’s looking back at Henry Drosky. Thanks for making us smile then and thanks for the smiles now. I hope you knew how much joy you brought to people.
Editor's Note: Top photo courtesy of Al Cox, while bottom photo is courtesy of Richard "Dick" Duez.

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