Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

February 14, 2005

Jon Dragan, 62, who helped start southern West Virginia's whitewater rafting industry, died at a hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, several days after suffering a stroke.

A Pennsylvania native, he and his younger brothers in 1968 started Wildwater Expeditions Unlimited, West Virginia's first commercial whitewater rafting business. Today, nearly 250,000 people go rafting on five West Virginia rivers. About 40 rafting businesses generate nearly $75 million a year.

In 2003, he launched the West Virginia Southern Railroad with Roger Lipscomb. The two purchased the former CSX Transportation line that ran between Mount Hope and Thurmond. They decided that a short-line freight hauler - rather than the scenic railroad for tourists that they had envisioned - would be more successful.

Merle Kilgore, 70, who co-wrote "Ring of Fire" during a wide-ranging career in music, died Feb. 6 in Mexico of medical complications related to his treatment for lung cancer.

During his career, he also was a singer, disc jockey, radio program director, actor and manager. He co-wrote "Ring of Fire" with June Carter, which became a hit in 1963 for Johnny Cash.

He was personal manager for Hank Williams Jr. He also worked with Hank Williams Sr. He also appeared in the movies Coal Miner's Daughter, Nashville, Nevada Smith and Five Card Stud.

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