By Joe Hoshaw, Jr.
Four new plaques will soon adorn the Trenton Sports Hall of Fame wall inside City Hall, thanks to the inductions last month of four new members whose names are synonymous with Trenton athletics and recreation.
Those joining the shrine included Hugh McLeish and Bob Wade, two men particularly known for their involvement in youth soccer, a sport that, up until now, had seemed underrepresented on the wall.
Also added was Lynn Herman, a former tennis standout who dedicated most of her adult life to teaching and coaching the sport, primarily as Trenton High School’s girls varsity coach.
The fourth person inducted was Trenton Parks and Recreation Director Joann Gonyea, who in her 32 years of involvement with that department is widely regarded as one of the most creative and innovative professionals in her field.
The Hall of Fame inductions were held in conjunction with the City Awards Banquet, which took place last month at Chateau on the River in Elizabeth Park. About 160 people were in attendance at the event, which is organized by the Trenton Civic Commission. While the Trenton Civic Commission presented its own group of awards at the banquet (see related article on Page 1-A), the Hall of Fame inductions are under the jurisdiction of the city’s Recreation Commission.
The Hall of Fame was the brainchild of former Trenton Times Sports Editor Joe Soults and youth sport boosters Dick VanGoethem and George Wendt. Their intention was to find a way to provide recognition to those who have made an outstanding contribution to Trenton in the fields of sports or recreation.
The first induction in 1978 saw six people enshrined. With the additions of McLeish, Wade, Herman and Gonyea, it now totals 75 members.
Herman, who served as both physical education teacher and coach in her more than three decades with Trenton Public Schools, retired last year.
“As a coach, she has been instrumental in promoting women’s athletics at all levels and, as a teacher, has encouraged healthy activity through her classroom initiatives,” her nomination write-up states.
As a student, Herman was a four-year member of both the varsity track and tennis teams. She went on to play college tennis at Western Michigan University, where she earned her teaching degree. She began coaching career in 1984, serving as girls varsity track coach from 1984-1994. She was assistant varsity tennis coach from 1985-1989 and was named head varsity girls tennis coach in 1989.
She also shared her love of tennis with Trenton youth through the Parks and Recreation Department, serving as tennis supervisor in the 1990s. She returned in 2014, volunteering much of her time supervising and mentoring Trenton Parks and Recreation young Tennis staff.
“Lynn has earned the respect of her peers through her dedication, enthusiasm and the tireless contributions she has made in shaping the lives of Trenton youth,” the nomination read. Herman said she was flattered by the award, and appreciative of the work of the selection committee and the tradition begun by Soults.
“It’s exciting to be in the community and kind of go full circle,” she said. “ … What a wonderful circle to be in, in this city of Trenton. It’s just been enjoyable. I never knew working so long inside of a chain-linked fence could be fun, but it is.”
Wade was appointed to the Trenton Recreation Commission in November of 1997.
“During this time, he has proven to be a positive asset, providing sound leadership and long-standing experience to help bring forth positive changes in the quality of life for our residents.”
The Trenton resident is a staunch supporter of parks and recreation, understanding the important role it plays in the quality of life of the community.
“Bob has been instrumental in the development of youth soccer in Trenton and the Downriver area. He has served as a board member of the American Youth Soccer Organization since 1986, and has held numerous positions within the organization. He has coached all levels of youth soccer, both recreational and travel teams. He has also coached at the high school level for Grosse Ile and Trenton.”
He was also an original member of the High School Hockey Showcase Committee in charge of security. He has volunteered for many special events, including the Trenton Summer Festival. His willingness to volunteer his time and share his knowledge has left an important mark on many Trenton residents.
“It’s quite an honor to be here as an inductee this evening,” Wade said. “It’s been a fun journey through the years coaching numerous kids ages 4 through high school. Not only have I enjoyed coaching, but also the various aspects of volunteering, such as the recreation commission, the hockey showcase and AYSO. The city of Trenton does a great job of hosting and promoting a wide variety of events and I’m proud to be part of this community.”
Gonyea began her career with the Trenton Parks and Recreation Department in 1985 as program coordinator. She became assistant director in 1990, and has served as the Parks and Recreation director since 2011. Joann grew up on Detroit’s east side, the youngest of eight children. She earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and parks service from Wayne State University.
“Joann has been the leading force of numerous program initiatives, projects and special events that are among some of the city’s proudest developments. She has also been instrumental in the redevelopment of many city parks, leading ‘Community Builds,’ which brings together members of the Community to build safe playgrounds for all to enjoy.”
More recently, she has played a major role in the Healthy Trenton Initiative, a partnership with Beaumont Health, in an effort to make the City of Trenton one of the healthiest cities in Michigan. She has served as a board member for the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association and is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance.
“The Recreation Department slogan: ‘Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs’ has been brought to life through her tireless dedication and long-standing commitment to enhancing the quality of life for the Trenton community.”
After being surprised by the Civic Commission with a special award at last year’s banquet, Gonyea had to make an impromptu acceptance speech.
Not this year, however, as Gonyea carefully recounted the important role her mother and siblings played in forming her career path. She didn’t have access to parks, but, thanks to her family, she said, she had her very own parks and recreation department right in her own home.
“What I remember most about these experiences is that they brought me great joy — a joy that remains in my heart, and a joy that became a catalyst for my life’s journey,” she said. “As my journey continued, God was right there making certain that the right people were at the right place to guide me.”
She said it has been a “career that has given me the vehicle to carry out my life’s mission — of sharing joy.”