Purdy to honor all-time great athletes

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Becky (Fly) Woods helped Purdy win its first state basketball championship and set numerous records at Purdy. She is part of Purdy's inaugural Hall of Fame class. Contributed photo

New Hall of Fame ensures recognition for athletic pioneers

Looking for a way to honor in the present those from the past, the Purdy School District has established the Purdy High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

According to the guidelines adopted by the board: "The Hall of Fame has been organized as a way of maintaining the rich heritage and tradition of successful athletic programs at Purdy High School," the guidelines said. "In addition, it will serve as a means of recognizing, preserving and honoring the athletes, coaches and individuals who made significant contributions to the athletic programs at Purdy High School."

Earl Miller scored 2,083 career points for the Purdy Eagles during his basketball tenure and was selected for the inaugural Purdy Hall of Fame class. Contributed photo

No more than two inductees will join the Hall of Fame per school year, although the district will welcome three inaugural members.

A selection committee will review the nominees and make final selections at an annual meeting. Inductees may be nominated by the selection committee; a Purdy community member; a current or former faculty, administration or staff member; or a Purdy High School alumni.

The school plans to honor its inaugural class on Friday, when the Eagles and Lady Eagles host Southwest for Homecoming.

"I believe this will be a great addition to our school," said Jennifer Schallert-Cornelius, Purdy athletic director. "We can honor the past, in the present."

Earl Miller, Becky (Fly) Woods and Norman "Gabby" Gibbons were selected the initial class.

"These legends form the backbone of our Hall of Fame family and set the standard for future inductees," Schallert-Cornelius said.

Woods graduated from Purdy High School in 1982. She joined the Lady Eagles' basketball team on all three of their trips to the state tournament, one from which they brought home the state championship. "Becky -- or "Pucky", as we called her -- was the glue that held us all together," said Dixie (Williams) Henry, Becky's teammate and friend. "She was an amazing player."

Norman "Gabby" Gibbons, long time educator and athlete at Purdy High School, was the third member selected into the inaugural Purdy Hall of Fame class. Contributed photo

Woods was named first team all-state her junior and senior seasons, and she set the state record for most points scored (96) by an individual in Class 1A over four state playoff games.

After graduation, Woods continued her education and her athletic career at Missouri Southern State College, where she was a four-year starter and won many awards, including the Missouri Southern Lady Lion Athlete of the Year in 1985.

She also played softball for the Lions as a walk-on from 1984-1987, where she won the 1987 Offensive Player of the Year award. She was inducted into the Missouri Southern Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Miller graduated from Purdy High School in 1969. During his tenure as an Eagle, he recorded a total of 2,083 career points and earned the all-conference, all-district and all-ozarks teams accolades in 1968 and 1969. Miller was named to the first team all-state in 1969.

Following his graduation from PHS, Miller continued his basketball career at Crowder College and later established a family farm between Purdy and Monett. "Earl had integrity," said Curtis Schallert, former teammate and lifelong friend. "He earned the respect of other team members and many other people. The respect that he gained in high school is something the people of Purdy should be very proud of."

Miller died in 2013.

Gibbons graduated from Purdy High School in 1945. During his tenure as a student he served as Senior Class and Student Council President; performed with the boys' glee club, the orchestra and band.

He was elected Most Polite Boy, Friendliest Boy, Most Athletic Boy and All-Round Boy by his peers.

Gibbons was a star basketball player. His most famous shot, a field goal with two-seconds remaining, gave the Eagles a victory over Nevada in the Sub-Regional Tournament, according to Purdy records.

Gibbons never lost his love for Purdy High School and returned in 1951 to teach high school math and science, and to coach basketball.

Gibbons also served several terms on the Purdy Board of Education. He continued cheering for the Eagles and assisting Coach Mike Payne in molding young players until shortly before his death.

"Gabby was an encourager who made the people around him better," Payne said of his friend, mentor and assistant. "He looked for the best in people and was especially drawn to young people. Gabby gave of himself and was a person of great integrity. He made a big difference in the lives of many people, and the ripple effects will go on forever."

In 2005 the City of Purdy renamed the street circling the school "Gabby Gibbons Drive" in his honor. Gibbons died in 2008.

The district will also have special displays and video presentations available for public viewing in the lobby and commons areas, highlighting the inductees' careers and accomplishments.

Further information regarding nominations and selections of Hall of Fame inductees can be found on the district's website, www.purdyk12.com.

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