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Bower & Brotherhood

Since community icon Bill Pickelner was first presented with what is now known as the Ray Keyes Sports Award (named in honor of longtime Williamsport Sun-Gazette sports editor) in 1957, the Lycoming County Brotherhood Alliance has yearly recognized local individuals for their involvement in helping others through sports.

Usually, the individual chosen to receive the honor receives notification either in person or via a telephone call. For the upcoming 2024 honoree, Dave Bower, such was not the case. Rather, he learned about it from the pulpit during a Sunday morning church service.

“Yes. It was a surprise,” Bower related. “When I walked into the church, I saw a few friends not normally there. I was seated in the pew when suddenly an announcement was made that I was the recipient of the Ray Keyes Brotherhood Sports Award. I was shocked and almost fell out of the pew. It was a complete surprise, and I was both honored and shocked.”

The prestigious Brotherhood Award is presented to individuals in recognition of their commitment to the development of sports skills and sportsmanship of county athletes while demonstrating outstanding leadership in promoting the cause of goodwill.

The Montoursville High School and Lock Haven University product has been the epitome of the Brotherhood ideals during five decades of coaching, teaching, and counseling. He was a decorated college athlete, a United States Air Force veteran, a dedicated high school and college instructor, a successful college coach, and a caring community volunteer assisting various non-profit groups in fulfilling their meaningful missions throughout the area.

“To be honored with the Brotherhood Award means a lot to me. This means other people have thought that not only was I successful in sports, but I was also willing to help other people who don’t have anything to do with sports. It is a great honor. Looking over the number of past recipients of this award and knowing it is named after Ray Keyes and what he represented in our community makes it even more meaningful.

“As you go through life, you do the things you do because you want to, not with the thoughts of receiving rewards. A lot of people that have done a lot more than I have and haven’t received this award. It was an honor to just have been nominated, and then to be selected make is truly an honor.”

Through a lifetime of coaching, teaching, and counseling, Bower sees all three as intertwined.

“You’re teaching while you’re coaching, and you’re coaching while you’re teaching. Throughout my career, I’ve leaned toward those who didn’t feel very good about themselves or had issues they were dealing with. To me, those instances comprise the greatest accomplishments of my career. It made me feel really good helping people get through some difficult times like addiction or family loss.

“One of the things that has been most rewarding is serving as a hospice volunteer. Those instances can be incredibly stressful for everyone involved. Being able to give the families some relief and share conversations with the patient has provided insights I’ll always remember.”

As his teaching and coaching careers grew to a close, Bower noted a lack of confidence as the biggest change he saw in his students.

“The biggest changes I’ve seen toward the end of my career are the many kids that just don’t have any confidence. Many lack confidence, while others felt they were pressured by their parents to go to college. I would share with these students that they were the ones who needed to find their way in life. Once they discover they can do something better than anyone else, that is what they need to do. They need to fight the temptation to give up or look for the easy path. The worst thing they can do is give up.

“I would advise young people to grab ahold of a parent, a teacher, a coach who can positively influence them and set the right course in life. One of the most influential people in my life has been coach Frank Girardi, who hired me for my first coaching job and has been by my side through some rough times ever since. That’s what I try and point out to kids — find those types of people. It will help them, but they must be willing to help themselves.

“In all the years I’ve coached, it’s the little things that have meant the most to me. Receiving letters from kids I’ve coached telling me how much I had a positive effect upon their lives. I’ve saved all of these letters and notes. When you are just starting out as a coach, it is all about winning and accolades. While winning is important to the profession, it is not until much later in life that you realize the positive influences you have had on someone’s life are the most important of all.”

Recognizing his playing and coaching accomplishments, Bower now joins a different type of team with his Brotherhood teammates.

“Reading the names of all those that previously won this award is humbling. I’m now glad to join them on that same team.”