"J-Widz Classic" takes on extra meaning this year

Joel Widmer is pictured with his dog, Murphy in an undated photo. Widmer, who was a star athlete in the Williasmburg High School class of 2007, died in February 2014.

In 25 short years, Joel Widmer left an impression on everybody he met.

"Just a happy-go-lucky guy," Patrick Stecker recalled on Friday. "If you're around him, you're always smiling - always making you laugh."

"He could run out of gas, have a flat tire, engine blow up - and he'd still walk in the door with a smile on his face," J.J. Carney said.

Joel battled depression - and died on February 7, 2014. Not long after that, friends and family began to plan a way to keep Joel's memory alive.

"Joel was a great baseball player. He played in college. He was fantastic in high school - one of the best pitchers Williamsburg has seen," organizer Nick Doerhmann said. "And we thought slow-pitch softball would be good. He played that all the time."

In just three years, the J-Widz Classic has raised more than $30,000 for a foundation made in Joel's honor. It provides two annual $1,500 college scholarships and works to bring better education and health initiatives for local youth.

"Really did my heart a lot of good to see his friends wanna do something like that," Joel's father Kent said on Friday. "It's special. To have the people want to carry it on is important to me."

But this year's tournament will mean even more than usual. This past February 4, just days before the anniversary of Joel's death, Pam Widmer - Joel's mother and Kent's wife - passed away after a battle with ovarian cancer.

"They're both smiling this weekend - together," Kent said.

Now the tournament will stand for more than just one memory.

"We're already starting to talk about what can we do to involve Pam and remember her," Doerhmann said.

Game times for the tournament - as well as a list of raffle items - can be found at the J-Widz Classic Facebook page.

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