For Les DeFelice, CEO of Wheeling, W.Va. – based DeFelice Group, Inc. (doing business as Visiting Angels), his diverse career started at Oglebay Park.
Reflecting on his path and how he got here, Les gets a bit emotional. “In May 1971, I was fresh out of Wheeling High living near downtown with my single mother and two younger siblings. Friendships I made in high school included some of the golfers who encouraged me to apply at Oglebay. I still clearly remember sitting across from Randy Worls, then Wheeling Park Commission president and CEO, for an interview. I was clean cut, polite and respectful, which worked in my favor, and I was hired to work on the Spiedel Course, then 50 percent completed.”
Les’ fond memories of Oglebay began with the interview with Randy’s measured, friendly tone. He worked for Director of Golf Ed Murphy, a driven, exacting perfectionist when it came to the golf courses.
“Coach Murphy could be terrifying to us young guys. I owe Coach Murphy a debt of gratitude as I developed zero fear, which has benefited me time and time again in business. There were six of us future college freshmen living in a primitive cabin at Caddy Camp, Cabin 5. We would get up at the crack of dawn to cut grass and the greens. At noon, we would be driven back to Caddy Camp where we would have an incredible hot lunch made by Mrs. Ed Murphy with ice-cold milk in tin cups that looked like they were used in the Civil War. Then it was back to work on the course for the rest of the day,” Les remembers with a laugh. “Years later, Coach Murphy said he was proud of what I was beginning to accomplish. With no father in my life, that meant the world to me.”
In the winter months, the crew spent their hours at the modest ski slope located at the Par 3 working the ski lift during the day or making snow all night. The golf/ski-season job introduced Les to a world entirely different from what he knew growing up, enabling him to attend West Liberty. “Working at Oglebay opened so many doors, introducing me to so many opportunities. I went from not having many prospects to having hope for a future, thanks to Randy Worls.”
From a very early age, Les wanted to know how to be successful. Three people at different times in his life shared the following words of wisdom:
“You have to get along with people.”
“We’ll love you like baby Jesus, but you’ve got to produce.”
Les continues to leverage these mantras to build his second successful business, which has consistently received honors and awards at a national level for its innovative leadership and hiring best practices. With a career that took him to Chicago, Dallas, Houston and New York City before moving back to Wheeling, the father of two sons says his success is due to “surrounding myself with people smarter than me and always putting everyone on the team ahead of myself. Those are the key factors in currently having 500 coworkers and probably 1,000 by the end of the decade.”
“Generosity is something that I experienced from an early age, exemplified especially by my incredible mother. As I think about giving back, naming the Oglebay Foundation as the beneficiary of a whole life insurance policy is the beginning of how I plan to return the investment Oglebay made in me.”
Talk about making a difference in the parks.