June 1, 2001
Dominion Post Newspaper
BY MISTY POE PHILLIPS
Times West Virginian
FARMINGTON -- It was more than 20 years ago when Tina Valone Paolucci began to experience unusual symptoms.
The first thing that she noticed was that her finger ''felt funny'' and she was having difficulty walking.
After a series of medical tests and a number of second opinions from doctors, Paolucci was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1981.
But it was long before the disease was diagnosed that the most important friendship of Paolucci's life was developed, the one she shares with Dr. Alice Moerk.
Moerk, who began teaching at Fairmont State College the year that Paolucci began her studies in music there, was first her teacher, then her mentor and finally her friend.
''She's been my mentor through all of my college years and even now,'' Paolucci said.
The bond between the professor and the student stayed strong long after graduation, and for Paolucci, Moerk was a constant source of inspiration and motivation once she was diagnosed with the debilitating disease.
''I know that I can always call if I need some encouragement,'' she said.
And even now, Moerk is doing what she can for her former student and others afflicted with the disease.
Moerk, who retired from FSC last year after more than 30 years of teaching, is organizing a concert to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society -- West Virginia Chapter.
The concert will feature ''Tina's Songs,'' music inspired by Paolucci's poetry and composed by Moerk.
The benefit will be held Sunday at 3 p.m. in the High Gate Carriage House and is being sponsored by the Friends of High Gate, City of Fairmont Arts and Humanities Commission, the FSC School of Fine Arts, Kleebs Music Center and Edward Jones. There will be a minimum charitable donation of $10 for Sunday's benefit concert, payable at the door.
In addition to ''Tina's Songs,'' a number of FSC professors and former colleagues of Paolucci will also perform selections, including John Ashton, Jeriel Gilmer, Carolyn Sheets, Betty Pat Lee, Douglas Bunner and others.
''So many of the professors that I had at Fairmont State College and my past friends are going to be performing on my behalf,'' Paolucci said. ''I just cannot believe the support.''
''Every trauma that happens to you, there is always some alternative to it,'' Moerk said. ''There's some kind of outlet that you can find to turn it around.''
''It would be nice to encourage other areas to do the same thing,'' Moerk said, adding that there are a number of artistic outlets to explore for fund-raisers.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society provides financial and emotional support for those afflicted with MS, organizes support groups and informative group sessions with local doctors and funds medical and pharmaceutical research.
''It makes a difference for so many of us to know that there's some place you can go for help,'' Paolucci said of the society.
And it is the continued support of friends and family members that helps her get through every day, including her husband Nick.
''If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be able to do the things I do. He is the epitome of my strength and courage,'' she said.
The motto that Paolucci now lives by is, ''You've got to find the good in life somewhere along the way.''
She explained that she has Moerk to thank for that philosophy and the constant source of support in her life.
''That's one thing about MS. It gave me the chance to think and to read,'' said Paolucci, who worked as a music teacher at Miller Junior High School until the symptoms of her illness forced her to retire in 1990.
''Now, I just do the best that I can and just enjoy every day.''
''I can't believe it, all of these kindred hearts working together to promote something so special,'' Paolucci said. ''When things got really, really bad, this came along.''
For more information about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or for more information about local support groups, call the MS Hot line at (800) 628-5645.