POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — I was saddened to learn of the passing of Denise Scarberry on Nov. 20, a local businesswoman who owned Advance Design Hair Care and former organizer of the Point Pleasant Halloween Block Party.
Denise’s parents, Lawrence and Barbara Scarberry, have lived next to either my grandparents, and later my aunt and late uncle, my entire life, so I knew her from an early age. I always found her witty and kind – to this day, I remember the card she sent me after my mother passed away and the message with it, which was uniquely Denise.
I interviewed her several times for the Point Pleasant Register about the Halloween Block Party which, over the course of two decades, she turned into an event that exploded in popularity and seemed to rival the Mothman Festival in terms of attendance.
In 2017, she decided to pass the block party on to the next generation. I knew I had to interview her at that last, big shindig she hosted. When I tracked her down at Riverfront Park, she was serving tray after tray of hot dogs. When I told her I wanted to interview her for the paper about her “retirement,” she looked at me, as if to say, “Why would you want to do that?”
She graciously agreed to let me do the story, though during the interview, she never stopped working – taking questions from volunteers, and me, without missing a beat.
A year later, I returned to the block party to cover it for the paper again and spotted Denise, still serving up food and volunteering. That was Denise – faithfully there. And, she was faithfully there for all those families who were treated to free food, candy, games, and fun, for at least one night a year.
I know words fall well short of healing the loss I’m sure those who loved her most are feeling. I am so very sorry for you all.
During a complicated time of social distancing and small gatherings in which we are all navigating, Denise’s obituary stated a celebration of life is planned for a later date. Instead, friends were asked to line Viand Street in Point Pleasant on Tuesday to say goodbye, and they did — all along the funeral procession’s route, wearing masks, and silently showing support for the woman who gave back to many who never knew her name, and many more who did.
During a week when we give thanks, give thanks for those faithful volunteers who are left, as well as the ones who left a legacy.
Appearing here is the 2017 article I wrote about Denise’s last block party, titled:
A Halloween tradition: Scarberry retires her title as head party planner
POINT PLEASANT — “I love Halloween.”
This is the simple and sincere explanation as to why Denise Scarberry has organized the annual Halloween Block Party for the last 20 years in Point Pleasant, an event which has grown from a handful of trick-or-treaters, to hundreds jamming into Riverfront Park. However, like all good things, they must come to an end…though the block party will hopefully continue. For Scarberry, it’s time to pass the tradition on to a new leader.
“It’s sad but I think it’s time for me to move on and somebody else to come in and take it over,” she said.
Scarberry said she begins working on the next year’s block party the day after the last one is over.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said during her interview for this story; an interview which took place at the block party while she fixed tray after tray of hot dogs.
The idea for the block party was started by the local junior women’s club and then Scarberry and her volunteers stepped in to keep it going, seeing the potential for the event which provided a safe space for children from every socioeconomic background. That space would provide not only candy but a free meal, free games, prizes, inflatables and memories.
Scarberry said the party couldn’t happen without the businesses, organizations and a core group of volunteers who help her put it on.
“I have a lot of businesses that set up, plus my faithful volunteers,” she said.
Ironically, Scarberry almost missed her last block party. The night before it was set to happen, she was in Nashville at a once-in-a-lifetime concert at Bridgestone Arena, attending the “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration” featuring a slew of celebrities like Dolly Parton, Lionel Ritchie and the Gambler himself.
The day of the block party, Scarberry was returning home from Nashville when a piece of metal ended up in her tire in God’s country. A tire shop was finally located and despite the detour, she got back on the road. She said she was on the phone with her volunteers the whole way. Still, it was cutting it close.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” she laughed. “I thought I was retiring early.”
“Denise has been doing this 20 years and we at the City of Point Pleasant, are very fortunate to have had her leadership,” Mayor Brian Billings said. “We’re going to miss her and we’ve got to find someone to fill her shoes. We’re indebted to her and what she’s done.”
When Scarberry looks back on the early days of the party, she said maybe 50 kids would show up but now, that number is in the hundreds and not just from Mason County. Visitors come from across the area.
“It’s a lot bigger than I ever dreamed,” she said. “It’s a fun event and I’ve enjoyed it but I don’t really get to see the costumes (the kids wear) because I’m always working. I love to see the little kids (dressed up) and playing our homemade games.”
Scarberry herself hasn’t got to dress up and celebrate trick-or-treat since she took over the block party.
“I hope someone will continue the madness,” Scarberry said with a smile.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.