Winchester, VA – The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® has named the 2022 inductees to the Apple Blossom Sports Hall of Fame. These four individuals will be recognized for their contribution to sports across the region at 8:00 am during the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast on Saturday morning, April 30, 2022, at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Event Center, 1188 Ralph Shockey Drive. General admission tickets are now for $45 and are available at www.thebloom.com.
“Horsefeathers!” This word belongs to Bob Brown. He often used it in coaching the many youth who played baseball with him and it is still a favorite word. It’s a good clean expletive that gets his point across as he works with Winchester Baseball’s Bambinos.
The Bambino League is a nonprofit organization under tax classifications of baseball for recreation, sport, leisure, and athletics. The stated goal is described as the teaching of baseball fundamentals, good sportsmanship, and good citizenship. Commonly known as Winchester Baseball, its internet homepage says: “the success of Winchester Baseball can be seen in the induction of its President Bob Brown in 2010; in 2015 Winchester Baseball became only the second league in Babe Ruth Southeast Regional history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Brown, like many of the best athletes of the area, started young, playing on Arlington, VA’s first little league team. He went on to be an All-State athlete in both baseball and basketball in high school. Parade Magazine picked him as an All-American in basketball and an All-Metropolitan second baseman. In 1956 the American Legion team on which he played won the Legion Championship. After high school, Bob went to Wake Forest on a baseball scholarship and participated in major league affiliated summer programs. Catching the eye of major league scouts, he was invited to try out for the Yankees, the Cardinals, the Braves, and signed with the Orioles after graduating. Brown’s background gave him all the fundamentals he needed to lead youngsters into the sport.
But desiring a secure and reliable income, in 1972 Brown came to Winchester becoming the owner of Bauserman Oil Company. He missed daily interaction with baseball. He missed the camaraderie. He missed teaching others what he had learned of the sport. In 1988 he began his tenure with Winchester Baseball as a coach and became its president in 1993. His belief in the game and its positive effects on our youth is such that he continues to be the President of Winchester Baseball. Baseball, says Brown, “teaches baseball fundamentals, good sportsmanship and good citizenship.”
Ivy Brown Tyson, Bob Brown’s sidekick, number one volunteer, and the mother of extraordinary
athletic sons herself, described Coach Brown with three words: fierce, competitive, and loving. Ivy said, “He teaches them baseball but he also teaches them to be young men.” Ivy’s accolades of Bob ring true. He managed the first All Star team – Bambino League- in 1991. Following the 1991 World Series Play, Brown’s new aims were to hold district play and regular tournaments in Winchester. To this end, he developed a coach training program. Brown joined with Winchester Parks and Recreation to help develop a plan to make the facilities up-to-date and welcoming to out-of-town teams. With the help of many businesses and generous individuals giving time and materials and money the facilities were soon tournament level.
Brown added to his list of awards both the Washington, D.C. Hall of Fame and the Home Plate Hall of Fame Club in 2007. This extraordinary effort of a state-of-the-art facility, along with his coaching, saw Bob Brown selected to the South East Regional Hall of Fame in 2010 and in 2011 the City of Winchester dedicated the baseball field as the Bob Brown Youth Complex.
In addition, Brown’s teams were consistent winners of district, state, and regional championships. In 2011 Brown was the manager of the very first 10-year-old World Series team. They were second in the country!
Bob Brown had a vision and he made it a reality. Thanks to Bob Brown, a multitude of young boys are now young men.
Charles Cecil Chapman, known as “Sonny,” was a champion in the eye of the community as the voice and chair of the Apple Blossom Sports Breakfast for some 20 years. His leadership in this capacity was a significant influence not only in Winchester and Frederick County but in the surrounding area.
His impact on the culture of sports is evidenced as in his saying that “Apple Blossom is my favorite holiday” and following that, at every department chair meeting, he would announce “there will be a sports breakfast this year.” He would grin and tease the group by giving away no celebrity athlete attendees.
Chapman’s co-chair for a number of years was Jim Gowdy, now an Apple Blossom Vice-President. Gowdy reminisces that Sonny shaped the Sports Breakfast with his organizational skills from securing a venue to preparing the budget. Gowdy said, “Sonny managed people…but his greatest challenge was to keep Russ Potts, co-founder of the event to a timetable.” For Sonny, it was all about sports and the breakfast was his way to show the importance of sports during his favorite holiday.
His wife of 45 years, Carol, shared with pride some of the many civic activities in which Sonny was instrumental. Sonny, she said, was involved in starting the Ken Thomas Golf Tournament, a Child-Parent Center raiser, gave much time and effort to Doo Dah Day (remember the song Camptown Races), a celebration for children and their families with a parade, race, games, and activities. Along with all these responsibilities, he was active with the Red Cross and the First Presbyterian Church in Winchester.
There was a calmness about Sonny Chapman. Past-President Mike Stanfield related that Sonny, as O’Sullivan Transportation Manager and prior manager of Smith’s Transfer Corporation, served his community often through the Exchange Club of Winchester as president and as one of the original founders of the Exchange Club’s Child Parent Center. Chapman also served on the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Board. He patiently got the importance of sports out to the community.
Chapman believed in sports. He saw them as a way to create camaraderie, team and community bonding, good physical fitness, and a sense of celebration. His influence on sports leaves a lasting legacy.
Brenda K. Neal has dedicated herself to students since 1978 when she graduated from Shepherd College with a degree in health, physical education, and driver’s education. Not stopping there, Brenda earned a Masters of Communication in Education, along with professional endorsements as a secondary principal and administrator. With meticulous planning and a strong belief in the importance of athletics and all types of sports, her curriculum vitae is not only impressive and scholarly but also emphasizes her philosophy that athletics builds social and cognitive skills.
Starting her career in the Winchester Public Schools at Handley High School as a teacher of kinesiology for grades 9-12, she was also the basketball, softball, and volleyball coach. For her ability as a basketball coach, she garnered three Winchester Star Coach of the Year awards and her teams won six Northwestern District titles. That’s just basketball!
Looking at volleyball, Neal coached the teams to six more Northwestern District titles, four Apple Capital Tournament championships. To her went three more Star Coach of the Year awards and the title of Virginia High School League All-Star Coach. Her ability was so recognized that she was named Director of the Virginia High School League’s All-Star Games from 1990-1998 and held a place on the National Federation of High Schools Volleyball Rules Committee.
In 2004 Neal added to her sports responsibilities. After becoming the principal/lead teacher of Winchester Schools’ Alternative Learning Center, she rose to the position of Assistant Principal at John Handley High School where she organized what were known as “Study Circles” for students. These circles focused on diversity and building self-confidence for high achievement. She achieved this model along with all the regular assistant principal responsibilities of schedules and budgets and discipline. Her name was added to the Hunter Maddex Hall of Fame at Handley in 2004.
During her years at Handley High, she left her mark with a variety of training skills to help other teachers and coaches: cognitive coaching, effective decision making, and the most important APL strategies which help teachers with student time-on-task and classroom management. Her excellence was also recognized as Neal is a featured cast member in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s video titled “Catch Them Being Good.”
Leaving her legacy of excellence in Winchester, Brenda became the Director of Access at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, WV in 2009. Blue Ridge CTC had once been part of Shepard College but had since been accredited as an independent institution. After several years as Director of Access, Neal was named as Associate Dean of Student where for the last nine years she supervised admission counselors, oversaw disability services, testing services, and student affairs. She retired in 2021. However, Blue Ridge still needs her service and expertise, and she is there still on a part time basis. Brenda said, “Oh, I work about 20 hours a week.” Retirement?
Neal is a reader, a hiker, and a golfer and likes warmer climates after 43 plus years of giving herself to education. Why her dedication, particularly to athletics? Brenda answered this by saying that besides the health benefits, “athletics teaches finding a common goal, achieving as a team, and finding that you do not need to be in the spotlight alone. We all achieve best in teams.”
JIMMY WIILKINS, JR.
James R. Wilkins, Jr., athlete, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, is the living example of how many of us would like to be considered in our home towns. A past-president of Apple Blossom, 1977 and 1978, Jimmy continues to sit on the Executive Board. He brings knowledge, savvy business acumen, and Festival history to the table. Always open to a chat about all things Festival, Wilkins gives advice to Festival committees as a guide, mentor, and coach.
An abbreviated overview of Wilkins life is best begun as an eighth grader at John Handley High School in Winchester. The year is 1959 and Coach Jimmy Omps noted there were only three athletic teams for males; football, basketball, and track and field. Coach Omps, himself, was a Handley graduate and knew intimately the grass football field, the “cracker box” basketball gym, and the 440-yard cinder track. Omps recognized in junior varsity Wilkins a competitive spirit and outstanding athletic ability. “Without a doubt,” said Omps, “he is one of the best all-round athletes ….” Omps noted that as a youngster, Jimmy had large hands and is proud that he has used those hands to bestow his financial gifts on his community.
Jimmy, the outstanding athlete, made All-State teams in all three of Handley’s sports, was inducted into Handley’s Hunter Maddex Hall of Fame and received in 1966 the first Handley “Medal of Honor” for service to the school system. Wilkins’ fond memories of Handley High as the quarterback of the 1960s, are reflected in the football field being named the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Stadium in 2009.
Returning home after college (with a cross-country record or two), he worked with his father in real estate and was President of Wilkins ShoeCenter, Inc. founded in 1947. Son, James R. “Ritchie” Wilkins III works with his father in the family businesses. Jimmy is married to Veronica “Roni” Flett.
Wilkins serves on the Shenandoah Battlefield Preservation Foundation, the Bank of Clarke County Foundation, Winchester Equipment Corporation Board and Handley High Centennial Committee. Over the years, Wilkins has received many leadership, community service, retail, and realty awards. He also has fire department awards and forestry/tree farmer awards. He served on Winchester’s Common Council for two terms and served on various bank boards. A public event was dedicated to James R. Wilkins, Jr. by the French & Indian War Foundation. The topic was “Handley High School: The Jeffersonian Soul of Winchester.”
Additionally, Jimmy has been dedicated to Shenandoah University where the Wilkins family has been known and celebrated since his father, James R. Wilkins, Jr., was instrumental in having the college move from Dayton, VA to Winchester. Now, the newest, largest, most impressive sports and event center in the region is opened: James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics and Events Center. The huge 77,000 square foot facility, opened in 2017 will serve the university and the community. Wilkins was awarded the SU President’s Medal for service to the university in 2018.
Marjorie Lewis, Chair of the SU Board of Trustees, told the audience at the naming ceremony for the
center that Jimmy’s “got a huge love and commitment to sports.” She added that he was generous and wonderful, but it was not his money but rather his years of “time, dedication, and energy” which earned him the honor. And it is now one of the most used facilities for Festival events.
Comments are closed.
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the beauty of springtime and the apple blossoms in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley through events and initiatives that enhance community spirit and showcases our local agricultural heritage.