Johnson City Press: Newest Wall of Fame inductees noted for their youth service
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Newest Wall of Fame inductees noted for their youth service

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Oct 2, 2018 at 4:53 PM

The theme of helping youth was front and center with the three newest inductees into the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Wall of Fame.

A luncheon to honor Dr. Todd Fowler, Barbara Stevens and Larry Manis was held Tuesday at Memorial Park Community Center with their formal inductions to come at a banquet on Thursday, Nov. 13.

Each of them shared their own stories with Fowler, an Arkansas native who moved to Johnson City in 1993. He practices at Watauga Orthopedics and has been the team doctor for Science Hill High School for the past 25 years.

His children have participated in various city sports leagues including soccer, softball and baseball, and he has served as a coach or played an active role in all those activities. Elected to the City Commission in 2016, he has pushed for more sports facilities in Johnson City. He talked about his role with Science Hill athletics and what it has meant to him.

“It’s part of the community and I’ve done it before and after my kids have gone there,” Fowler said. “Mark McDonald makes it easier where he has been there as the trainer and I’ve worked with him the entire time. He takes care of people and when he needs help, he grabs me. I try to be there for football every game.”

His most rewarding part of the job, easily, is helping athletes recover and getting them back on the field, court and track to compete.

“These kids want to play and that makes my job easier, too,” Fowler said. “They want to do their rehab and get back. I hate being the one keeping them out, so we try to get them healthy and get them back.”

Stevens was an employee of the Parks and Recreation Department from 1972-96. She worked with Howard Johnson, the city’s first Parks and Rec director, and her initial duties included supervising a summer playground program and the Kiwanis Park Recreation Center.

She served as a successful basketball coach for men’s, women’s and youth programs with her teams winning numerous league championships. She also served as the supervisor for the ever-popular skating program.

Her dedication to the program included running the Halloween Festival, plus working wrestling matches at Legion Rec and baseball games at Cardinal Park. Current Parks and Rec director James Ellis lauded her dedication and kindness to children, recalling times when she would pay for a child’s food or drink when they weren’t able to.

Manis, an Air Force veteran, created the Johnson City Seniors’ Foundation and served as the Johnson City Seniors’ Center assistant director from 1973-88. A former two-time All-Ohio Valley Conference runner at ETSU, he has volunteered to coordinate meets at ETSU for the last 32 years.

He is a certified U.S. Track and Field official, who has officiated more than 40 conference championship meets. He also coached T-Ball and Little League baseball in Johnson City and served as a youth basketball coach in the Jonesborough Parks and Rec program. In addition, he was Senior Softball League coach from 1976-88, twice going to the nationals.

He referenced the Rev. Billy Graham quote, “A coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.” He added, “There is no denying that sports and the people I’ve been associated with through sports, especially the coaches, have been mentors. They influenced me to be more involved with the community.”

His involvement included playing and coaching in Parks and Rec church league softball for two decades, and serving as an assistant cross country coach to George Pitts at Science Hill. He talked about the influence of legendary Johnson City coaches Pitts and Dave Walker, his track coach at ETSU.

“In the past years, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with a lot of good coaches,” Manis said. “With those guys, their coaching abilities were unsurpassed. What distinguished them is how they looked out for the kids who played or ran for them. They were interested in the welfare of their athletes more than just winning.

“I rode with Coach Walker to the NCAA regional meet in Louisville in 2009. He shared what he was most proud of was not the coach of the year awards, how many All-Americans he had, but the fact the athletes who stayed with him four years, all but one of them graduated. He was most proud of what they achieved after they left and what they did for the community as leaders.”

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