By PEGGY KEEL
As a native of Lebanon, I have always known this is a special place with special people. The love and support my family has received the past several years has proven it. As the owner of Sports Village, I never planned to leave, but then I met Johnny Keel, an owner of health clubs in Austin, Texas. We married and lived in Austin for five years. Johnny was truly in his element as a well-known resident of the city, both as a businessman and a golfer.
However, as we traveled to Lebanon to visit family and check on Sports Village, we began to realize that Lebanon was the place for us. As we discussed moving back, I worried about Johnny. He was accustomed to playing the finest golf courses in Austin, and Lebanon had two courses, one of which was nine holes. It seemed that everyone in Austin knew him, and here no one did. I really did not know if he could make the adjustment. I was totally wrong. He worked diligently as Sports Village; joined the Rotary Club of Lebanon; and took part in Leadership Wilson. We joined the First United Methodist Church, which sustained us through many difficult times. Soon, Johnny knew more people in Lebanon than I did.
Johnny grew to love Lebanon as much as I have, and through illness we discovered how much Lebanon loved us. In 2001, I faced death as an unknown benign tumor ruptured. On life support for five days, the doctors were not sure my heart could withstand the trauma. Thankfully, I had spent years teaching aerobics. Exercise and Johnny’s “never give up” attitude pulled me through, along with the prayers of family, friends, church members and Sports Village members. Johnny and I got our first glimpse of the wonderful Christian community Lebanon truly is.
In 2003, we learned that Johnny had Stage Four colon cancer, and a difficult seven-year journey began. However, it was made easier by the outpouring of love and support from the people of Lebanon. Your prayers, cards and concerns kept Johnny fighting through the most difficult days. Johnny often commented that if he had not lived here, then he would not have lived as long. Your prayers pulled him through. I asked Johnny several years ago where he would like to be buried, here or Texas. He did not hesitate. A native Texan who loved his state, Lebanon, Tennessee was his home and where he wanted to be.
I thank everyone for their support through the years. Johnny and I could not have made it through without the support of our community; our church and all of the other churches; the medical community; the members of Sports Village; and our family. Johnny sincerely loved everyone of you. It is hard to appreciate something fully until you need it, and we all appreciate the people of Lebanon. Johnny learned what I always knew. Lebanon is the BEST city in the WORLD to live.
As Johnny would want, Sports Village will continue to grow and improve as it has for the past 23 years. Together we had a mission to improve everyone’s health, and we will continue to strive for that goal. We have new equipment and programs coming in January 2011. Tennessee currently ranks second in obesity, and the Sports Village staff is dedicated to fighting this problem. Johnny believed, and I continue to believe, in treating your body well with good nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups. We put together a list of vitamins, foods and scriptures essential for a healthy life. Free copies are available at Sports Village. I strive to give as Johnny and I received. If I can ever help anyone at anytime please do not hesitate to call.
And as Johnny would say, please get a colonoscopy.
Thank You to Everyone.