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Greetings From The Booth!
Some sad news from The Booth to report. Former WUSA9 sportscaster Ken Mease passed away recently. He was 80, and according to family members, had been suffering from dementia. Which would certainly explain why we didn’t see Ken at this year’s Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, where he was inducted into the SABF Sports Hall Of Fame. In addition to being a solid sportscaster on Channel 9 in DC, Mease was the longtime MC at the Apple Blossom Sports Breakfast, and was deserving of his HOF honor.
There are two kinds of Festival celebrities: those who fly or drive in, fulfill their obligations to the bare minimum, and head back out of town. I won’t name names. And there are those who fall in love with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival and the Winchester area, and want to soak up all the vibe of the Bloom. Ken Mease was one of the latter. He came to embrace the Festival, and was a big part of it every year. Because of conflicting obligations, I’ve never attended a Sports Breakfast, but I had the pleasure of hearing Ken speak at some other Bloom events at which he made appearances. Over the years, he became one of us. We lift our pink and green cups to Ken Mease! He will be missed.
Changing gears, the high school football season kicked off this past Friday, with one notable exception. The Skyline Hawks were scheduled to play the Strasburg Rams in the opener for both teams. However, the game didn’t happen, because of some social media posts that threatened the safety of fans at Proctor Field in Strasburg. Details are still coming in, and local law enforcement are still investigating. Suffice it to say that officials made the right call to cancel the game, erring on the side of safety. That should always be the priority.
It’s a sad commentary that we live in an age where someone can shut down a sporting event with a negative social media post. Players on both teams had prepared all Summer (and longer) for what should have been a special night. The high school football schedule is just 10 games long, and for seniors especially, each one is precious. Now, it’s simply an unplayed game they can’t get back.
There are those who blame the worlds ills on social media. I say it’s simply a medium through which both good and evil flow. Social media has connected us in ways we would not have thought possible 40 years ago. It has also been a conduit for hate, bullying, and worse. We must all have our radar up so that our teams and fans can safely enjoy football on a Friday night.
Anything less is unacceptable.
Until the next time from the Booth…be safe, be diligent, and be true to your school!
In the latest SDPC, Randy Woodward and Scott Snapp talk about the relationship of sports to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. This year, the first-ever class of the Apple Blossom Sports Hall Of Fame will be inducted, and we also talk about this year’s Sports Marshal, Joe Theismann. Happy Bloom from The Sports Dogs!
Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival establishes an Apple Blossom Sports Hall of Fame.
Inducting six individuals in this inaugural year include.
Russ Potts created the Apple Blossom Festival Sports Breakfast along with Dick Kern in 1965. Former Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey was the very first sports celebrity to attend the Sports Breakfast.
Potts is a member of 6 Hall of Fames: National College Sports Marketing Hall of Fame, Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, Handley High School Judges Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Potomac State College Hall of Fame, Shenandoah University Hall of Fame and the University of Maryland Phi Delta Theta Fraternity Hall of Fame
Russ is a former Executive Director of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®, serving from 1969 to 1970. During his tenure he moved the Grand Feature Parade from Friday to Saturday attracting 86 bands in 1969 & 92 bands in 1970.
Potts was elected eight times to the Virginia State Senate from 1992-2008. He served as Chairman of the Senate’s Education & Health Committee.
Russ was the first Sports Marketing Director in the history of college athletics at the University of Maryland. He was also the Director of Athletics at SMU. During his tenure, both universities set all time average attendance increase records-the only time in NCAA history.
Potts served as Vice President of Marketing for the Chicago White Sox.
Russ Potts headed up the capital campaign for the Handley High School renovation and creation of the Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center. Russ helped the school raise over $22M for both projects.
Over his career, Russ has staged, promoted, or organized over 1,000 athletic events. He created the first Women’s College Basketball game on national television – Immaculata vs. Maryland in 1976, created the first Men’s College Basketball primetime television package, and organized the famous Georgetown vs. Virginia game featuring the battle of the 7 footers – Patrick Ewing vs Ralph Sampson which was televised on national TV.
Dick Kern and Russ Potts were the Co-Chairmen of the very first Sports Breakfast featuring Jack Dempsey in 1965.
Dick passed away on October 1, 2020 at 100 years old and is represented by his grandson, Trey, Owner / Operator of Kern Motor Company. Both Trey and Dick’s son Rick were outstanding athletes at Handley. All three are members of the Judges Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
Kern was one of the founders of the Judges Athletic Association – one of the nation’s most successful high school booster associations. Dick is a past President of the JAA.
Dick was an outstanding athlete having starred at Handley High School as a quarterback in the single wing offense and later at Virginia Tech as the starting defensive halfback and linebacker.
Kern won the Williams Award as the outstanding senior football player in 1941 and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was unable to pursue an NFL career because of serving in World War II.
Dick was a highly decorated war hero in the U.S. Army during WWII and one of the youngest company commanders in the nation with over 300 men under his command.
Dick created Kern Motor Company, the longest standing automotive agency in Winchester / Frederick County.
Kern served with distinction as Vice Mayor, Chairman of the City Finance Committee, and Councilman serving for over 20 years.
Dick Kern will always be known as an outstanding community leader and philanthropist.
Walter Barr’s coaching career bridged five decades. Barr was a two-sport athlete at Shepherd University where he played football and baseball. He graduated from Shepherd College in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science and received his master’s degree from James Madison University in 1970.
Walter’s teaching experience spanned from 1962 to 1998. He taught at James Wood High School, Loudoun County High School, Broad Run High School, Sherando High School, and Lord Fairfax Community College.
Barr began his coaching career at James Wood High School where he was an assistant football coach and head track coach from 1962 to 1967. In 1967, Coach Barr became the head football coach at James Wood and coached until 1971 where he went on to be the head football coach at Shepherd University until 1986. In 1994, Barr became the first head coach of Sherando High School. In 1999, Barr was asked to conduct a football program feasibility study for Shenandoah University which later turned into a head football coaching position with the University. Coach Barr returned to James Wood High School in 2005 and turned around a program that had not had a winning record in 26 years. Coach Barr concluded his coaching career with 210 wins, 94 losses and 5 ties.
Coach Barr has one of the most decorated football coaching records in the region.
1966-1971 James Wood High School (38-2-1)
2 undefeated teams
Virginia AAA State Champions 1970
1971-86 Shepherd University (104-48-4)
3 WVIAC Championships
NAIA National Play-offs 1985
1990-1991 Loudoun County High School (5-5)
1994-1997 Sherando High School (38-13)
State Play-Offs (3 years)
2000-2001 Shenandoah University (9-11)
2005-2007 James Wood High School (16-15)
Barr has been induced into the NAIA Hall of Fame, Shepherd College Hall of Fame, Clarke County Athletic Hall of Fame, James Wood Athletic Hall of Fame and will soon be inducted into the Shenandoah University Hall of Fame in 2022 (postponed due to COVID.) Walter Barr is a 3-time WVIAC Coach of the Year and 4-time Winchester Star Coach of the Year. In 2016 he received the Richard C. Shickle Award and in 2019 was bestowed the honor of having the James Wood High School Football Field named after him.
Coach Barr has been published in The American Football Coaches Guidebook to Championship Football Drills by Jerry R. Tolley 1984 and hosted many football coaches’ clinics while he was at Shepherd University and Shenandoah University.
Paul Wendell “Wendell” Dick
Last year, on Friday, December 4, 2020, our community said goodbye to a beloved individual and friend to many. To many of us, Wendell was the face of James Wood High School athletics even after his retirement in 1991.
Wendell grew up in Frederick County, VA and went to James Wood High School (5-12 grades) when it opened in 1950. He graduated in 1958. Dick was recognized as James Wood’s “Outstanding Male Athlete.” While in high school, he was 1stteam District 10 basketball player, earned 14 Varsity letters, and participated in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He was one of the first James Wood High School graduates to have perfect attendance for all 12 years of schooling.
In 1958, Wendell enrolled at Potomac State Junior College in Keyser, WV, on a basketball scholarship where he led the team in free-throw shooting for two years. In 1960, he entered West Virginia University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education. He was a goalie on the WVU men’s soccer team and earned his MS Degree in Health and Safety. After graduating, he joined the Army National Guard in Winchester. While in Basic Training in Fort Jackson, he was selected as the “Outstanding Trainee” and was catcher of their undefeated softball team.Wendell enjoyed playing for a traveling semi-professional basketball team and fast pitch softball. Wendell was a Cross-County and Track Official for 50 years (1960-2010). For many years, he was also a “Color Commentator” for 92.5 WINC-FM Sports with Joe Pasquali.
Wendell held lifetime memberships in the James Wood Athletic Association, the Potomac State College Alumni Association, the West Virginia University Alumni Association, the Virginia Retired Teachers Association, and the Greenwood Fire and Rescue Company Association.
For several years, he served as Co-Director of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Sports Breakfast.
In 1990, Wendell was inducted into the Fast-Pitch Softball Hall of Fame and in 2000, James Wood High School honored Wendell by establishing the P. Wendell Dick Athletic Hall of Fame.
Russ Potts will accept the award on behalf of the Wendell Dick family.
If you have attended the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast over the years, you will know that Ken Mease cherished the opportunity to visit and participate in the Shenandoah Apple Blossom. Ken began attending the Festival in 1999 where he emceed the Sports Breakfast. There were only two years between 1999 and 2017 where he was not able to participate in our annual celebration. In addition to emceeing the Sports Breakfast, Ken spoke at the Festival’s Ladies Horticultural Luncheon and served as the Court Ambassador for the Coronation of Queen Shenandoah. In 2018, the Festival recognized Ken by presenting him with a life pass to the sports breakfast. Ken returned to celebrate the Festival with us in 2019 but did not emcee the breakfast that year. Ken loves the Festival and continually went out of his way to support the Festival in many ways.
Ken Mease has had a tremendous career in sports television and radio in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region of the US for over five decades.
Ken grew up in Selinsgrove, PA and graduated from Selinsgrove Area Joint High School in 1960. In high school, Mease played basketball and baseball, was band president and served as Lt. Governor and International Trustee in Key Club International. After graduating from high school, Ken attended Susquehanna University from 1960 to 1964. During college, Mease worked part-time for WKOK-AM-FM as a disc jockey, news, and sports reporter.
In 1963, Ken worked for WUNS-AM in Lewisburg, PA as an announcer and color commentator for Bucknell University Football for their ’64 and ’65 seasons.
Ken joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard in 1965 where he completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. He attended tech school as a communications specialist at Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, TX. Ken completed his Guard commitment in 1971.
Between 1965 and 1975, Ken continued his work in communications at radio and television stations in Harrisburg, PA, Charlotte, NC, Pittsburgh, PA, and Providence, RI. While in Providence, Mease anchored sports six days a week and was recognized in 1973 with the Rhode Island Sportscaster of the Year award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
In 1975, Ken served as Director of Athletics for Robert Morris College (now University.) Ken was instrumental in the University’s leap from junior college status to NCAA Division I. Ken did play-by-play of Colonials basketball for three seasons, coached the school’s basketball team for one season. While at Robert Morris, Mease laid the groundwork for the school’s Sports Management program.
In 1979, Ken went back to news television as a sports anchor and weekday reporter in Pittsburgh, PA. Ken was awarded two Golden Quill Awards (the Pittsburgh Emmy) for the “Steeler Monday” sports feature.
From 1986 to 2003, Ken was the sports anchor and reporter for WUSA-TV in Washington, DC. Ken primarily worked as the station’s weekend sports anchor with weekday reporting duties. Ken covered Sunday night sports specials including Redskin shows. Mease also freelanced where he covered Navy Football radio and George Mason TV basketball play-by-play.
From 2003 to 2010, Mease joined CBS-Westwood One Sports Radiosportscasting including Redskins post game.
In 2010 Ken joined the Washington Freedom, an American professional women’s soccer club in Germantown, Maryland.
Rodney Cowley will accept the award on behalf of Ken Mease.
Born in Winchester, VA, Tommy is the second youngest of seven children to Rachel and Clark Dixon. Dixon attended first through seventh grades at Douglas School. After integration, Tommy attended Handley High School from eighth through twelfth grades. While at Handley, Tommy was a three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball and track and field. He was voted 2nd team All-State in football and basketball. After high school, Dixon studied health and physical education at Potomac State College in Keyser, WV and Berea College in Berea, KY.
During Tommy’s tenure, he coached football, track and field, and basketball. Tommy coached football at Daniel Morgan Middle School for nine years where his team only lost two games and had one tie; the rest were wins. Dixon was an assistant track and field coach when Handley won several state championships. Tommy coached basketball for 36 years and compiled a record of 403-228. Tommy coached his teams to nine regular season championships, 10 regional appearances, 3 regional championships, and 6 state tournament berths. Coach Dixon was also recognized several times as Coach of the Year at the District and Regional level. Tommy also was selected to coach in the state all star game in 2000.
In 2001, Coach Dixon was inducted into Handley’s Hunter Maddex Hall of Fame and the Potomac State College Hall of Fame in 2010. On Saturday evening, December 17, 2016, during a boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball game inside Handley’s Maddex-Omps Gymnasium, the school announced that the basketball court would forever be known as the Coach Tommy Dixon Basketball Court.
This year’s Shenandoah Apple Blossom Sports Breakfast will be held at Frederick County Fairgrounds on May 1 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m..
Tickets for all Apple Blossom events are limited and found here.
For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.