Tim Rhoney – Class of 1977
Staff, The Town of Drexel, Morganton and Burke County Departments of Parks and Recreation

It is a rare athlete in Burke County who does not know the name Tim Rhoney. Tim has worked in a variety of capacities with the local parks and recreation departments and facilities for more than forty years and continues to enjoy his contribution to the community and to the coaches and athletes.

Probably his most recognized job was as director at the Valdese Parks and Recreation Department until his “retirement” in 2011. While there, he worked with and supervised hundreds – maybe thousands -- of young people and adults who enjoyed participating in any number of athletic activities.

“I was one of the fortunate people who was able to work right away in the field I studied in college.” Tim earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Administration from Wingate College in 1981, where he played baseball for all four years, and soon after found himself employed by the Burke County Parks and Recreation Department, A few years later, he became athletic director at the Valdese Rec.

Since his retirement, he has held a number of jobs. For a while, he worked part time at K-Mart in Morganton, doing “anything and everything, whatever was needed.” But soon his reputation caught up with him, and he was contacted to work part time in a supervisory position at the R. O. Huffman Center in Drexel where he remained until 2019.

“I still work for the Town of Drexel, the City of Morganton Parks and Recreation Department, and the Burke County Parks and Recreation Department. I do a variety of jobs, mostly taking care of the ball fields, tending to the grass, and keeping the exterior in good condition. The only words that adequately describe how I feel about this work are ‘I LOVE IT!’ I take great pride in keeping the ball fields in good shape for our sports teams, and I feel that it is a real contribution to the community. I like to know that people come to the ball field and appreciate what I have done. I feel so fortunate that I have the opportunity to work with so many great people. After so many years of working in the field of recreation, people have come to know and trust me. I have such a comfortable working relationship with everyone, I can set my own hours, and I have time to do other things beside recreation.”

But Tim’s skills have not been restricted to city and county recreational activities. One such job came about soon after he began work at the Valdese Rec. “The town would frequently have the gym floor screened and recoated, so we at the Rec center learned how to do it ourselves. After a while, I said, ‘Give me a few weeks, and let me do this myself.’ That eventually led to a call from Ron Swink at East Burke asking me to work on the school gym floor. Soon athletic directors and coaches from Burke and surrounding counties would call to ask for me to work on their gym floors. For ten years, I recoated sometimes as many as 26 floors in a season in Burke, Alexander, Caldwell, Catawba, and Lincoln Counties. I appreciate that they trusted me enough to call on me just from hearing about my work from other coaches.”

Another important job that Tim has enjoyed is performing as a basketball official for 35 years. The job of an official is to control the actual play of a competition, administering the rules and laws of the sport, being sure the game is played fairly and safely. “When I started, I just wanted to do a good job for the athletes and the coaches. But as time passed, I began to learn the many details involved in officiating. As a member of the Piedmont Basketball Officials Association, I have officiated at four state championships and eight regional championships involving ten counties and more than sixty schools. I am proud that I have been able to serve in this capacity for so long. It is a major accomplishment that is built on determination and hard work. I am gratified to receive the respect and trust of my peers and have gained a great deal of satisfaction from the task.”

For all of his success in the sports world, one might think there would be no time for anything else. “When I was six years old, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons. To put it plainly, I couldn’t stand it. I had three or four different teachers, but none of them were able to make me like playing. Then I began studying with Steve Mowery, who at the time was music director at Waldensian Presbyterian Church. I’m not sure why – maybe because he was the first male piano teacher that I had and that he sensed that as a young boy my interests might lie more in the sports world – but Steve was able to convince my mother that piano might not be the best choice for me. Then he gave me an option. Instead of formal lessons, he arranged for me to play for the boys choir rehearsals and for their once monthly performance at Sunday service. So I was able to continue playing but in a different way than most piano students.

“In the late 80s and early 90s, I started to play again at Valdese First United Methodist Church, and my interest in the piano grew quickly. I have played at various churches through the years including the Morganton First Church of God. Now I serve as pianist at Christ United Methodist Church and find much satisfaction and fulfillment in that role.

“I have several people who have influenced me greatly during my life. Five specific ones come to mind. First is Jeff Waisner, my best friend of 42 years and my baseball teammate at Wingate, Another is Larry Johnson, who was the town planner in Valdese for 25 years. We had a great relationship. Bret Watson worked with aquatics and fitness at the Valdese Rec during the time we built the Bubble and was a great influence. Stephen Hoell is a pastor and evangelist who I came to know through basketball officiating. He is one of the first people I call when I need words of wisdom.

“And, of course, I must include the man I call my ‘older brother,’ Ron Swink. I got to know him when I was in the tenth grade and he was doing an internship at East Burke. We have been friends for over 40 years.

“As a member of the first class to go all three years at East Burke, I, along with most of the other students, was apprehensive about leaving my smaller school and getting lost among all those people from other places. But it turned out to be great. I enjoyed all three years getting to know new people and developing a network of friends. Playing football, basketball, and baseball with fellow athletes helped to build strong bonds that remain today.

“The way I see it, God made me in a way that I can do a lot of different things in what I would call an ‘average’ way. I don’t think I have stood out in any particular manner, but I enjoy a variety of activities. I think it’s very important to stay busy as long as I can. I see too many people who decide to quit and do almost nothing. I believe that God will continue to bless me, and I will continue to do things to help others.”

Published April 2023

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