2015 HALL OF FAME INAUGURAL CLASS
NORMAN "GABBY" GIBBONS
Norman "Gabby" Gibbons graduated from Purdy High School in 1945. He was a star basketball player. In one match-up he sunk a field goal with two seconds remaining, to bring the Eagles a victory over Nevada in the Sub-Regional Tournament. Gabby never lost his love for Purdy High School and returned in 1951 to teach high school math and science and to coach basketball. In addition to coaching and teaching, Gabby 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. Payne noted of his friend, mentor and assistant, “Gabby was an encourager who made the people around him better. 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. Norman “Gabby” Gibbons passed away in 2008.
Earl Miller graduated from Purdy High School in 1969. After scoring a total of 2,083 career points and joining the All Conference, All District and All Ozarks teams in 1968 and 1969, Earl was named to the All-State First Team in 1969. After leaving his mark on basketball courts across the area, including a stint at Crowder College, Earl settled down to a quiet, yet impactful, farm and family life. He continued to lend his support to his beloved Purdy Eagles and to the community. In true Eagle fashion Earl soared through life, inspiring others to set their sights equally high. Bill Lee, Earl's high school coach, spoke glowingly of his star player. "Earl was an outstanding leader on the basketball court and later in the community. His versatility, resilience, and keen instincts made him both a tremendous athlete and person." Earl Miller passed away in 2013.
BECKY FLY WOODS
Becky Fly 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’s teammate and friend, Dixie (Williams) Henry noted, “Becky – or “Pucky”, as we called her – was the glue that held us all together. She was an amazing player.” Among the highlights of her innumerable honors, Becky made the All-State First Team in both her junior and senior years, and she set the state record for most points scored (96) by an individual in Class 1A over four state playoff games. After graduation Becky 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.
2016 HALL OF FAME CLASS
Coach Mike Payne began his career at Purdy in 1978. Throughout his 28-year tenure, Payne has coached basketball, track, softball and cross country and has instilled the values of hard work, determination, confidence and school spirit in countless players of all ages. He also left his mark on generations of Purdy Eagles as a social studies teacher, mentor, hero and friend. Although he treated each student and player as one of his own kids, Coach Payne was blessed to teach and coach his own children. His daughter, Jessie Payne Clawson, said of her dad and coach, “In his 30 years of coaching, Dad has undoubtedly taught many players the fundamentals of basketball. He ingrained in us the concept of using the backboard, the importance of keeping your head up to see the ball and your man. He taught us to play hard. More importantly he taught, through his example, the fundamentals of life – to live a life of virtue, to serve others, to have a positive attitude, to be an encourager, to show kindness, to practice patience, to give of your time, to work hard, to do what you love." Coach Payne retired in 2005, but he returned to the basketball court in 2014, as assistant coach for the Lady Eagles. He continues to mold and shape young athletes, both on and off the court.
Megan Leonard led the Lady Eagles softball team to the State tournament in 2003 and again in 2004. Her high school accolades included two-time Conference Player of the Year, four-time First Team All-State selection and Newsleader All Area Team selection. Megan continued to collect softball honors after her 2005 Purdy High School graduation. She pitched for Crowder College, where she broke the Single Season Strike-out Record. Her record still stands. Leonard finished her college softball pitching career at the University of Central Missouri (UCM), where she broke the UCM Single Season Strike-Out record with 303 strike-outs and tied the Single Season Saves record. During her senior year she was named MIAA Conference Pitcher of the Year, Senior Female Athlete of the Year and National Pitcher of the Week. She led her team to the MIAA Conference Championship and tied the NCAA Division II record for Consecutive Scoreless Innings at 83 2/3. Leonard was inducted into the University of Central Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame in February 2015.
2017 HALL OF FAME CLASS
BRENDA KEELING MCNEIL
Brenda McNeil, who graduated in 1981, made the trip to the State Basketball tournament with her Lady Eagles teammates in 1980 and 1981, bringing home the State Championship title in 1981, her senior year. She became the first female athlete from Purdy High School to receive first team All State honors in 1980 and was named to the 1981 All State first team by unanimous selection. Brenda was also a four-year member of the All Conference team, a three-year member of the All District team and a two-year member of the All Ozark team. She was named All Conference Most Valuable Player in 1980. Upon receiving her Hall of Fame membership McNeil stated, “I would like to thank everyone for this incredible honor – and thank each and every one of my family, teammates, coaches, fans, teachers & community members for all of the wonderful memories and unbelievable support, both past & present. Every young athlete that picks up a ball has a dream of someday winning a state championship – it just doesn’t happen every day. Purdy High School has a special place in my heart – the girls basketball program has an even bigger one – it is truly special and has encouraged and allowed so many young dreams to be fulfilled. Here’s to thee dear Purdy High School!
2018 HALL OF FAME CLASS
Nancy Easter served as head volleyball coach for the Eagles from 1985 to 1990. She led her teams to five District title matches and two trips to the State Volleyball Tournament, where they finished in third place in both 1988 and 1989. Easter was named Conference Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1989 and State Coach of the Year in 1988. Easter’s Hall of Fame nominator and former player Shelley (Swadley) Henderson said of her beloved coach, “Nancy Easter was first and foremost a teacher. She had a quiet confidence that inspired us to set our sights high. She taught us by example that with hard work and preparation we could achieve anything.” After leaving Purdy Easter taught and coached at Houston High School and Springfield schools. Easter and her Houston teams made two trips to the final four during her tenure. She also served as President of the Missouri State Volleyball Coaches Association in 1993, organized and ran a 10-team Junior Olympic Volleyball Club in the Houston area and served as keynote speaker at the Women in Sports Leadership Conference in 1993.
2019 HALL OF FAME CLASS
After representing the Eagles in four consecutive State Cross Country meets, Brian joined the Missouri Southern State University Track and Cross Country team as a walk-on. His college accolades included Team Captain, MIAA Conference Champion and All American. Brian led the Lions to four conference championships. During his time at Missouri Southern Brian met his wife, Margaret, a standout athlete on the MSSU Women’s Track and Cross Country team. Brian and Margaret were inducted into the MSSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014. Upon college graduation Brian joined the running industry as a career leader, producing and providing support for running events across the United States and working to help others succeed in the business.
The Purdy Lady Eagles
The Purdy Lady Eagles basketball team made school history in 1981 by bringing home the Class 1-A State Championship, after earning a fourth place finish and the State Sportsmanship Trophy in 1980. Coach Bill Reece and his team returned to the Final Four in 1982, placing second in the state. The early '80s Lady Eagles were a local basketball dynasty, igniting the Spirit of the Eagle within staff, students and the Purdy community as a whole. In the years after their high school graduation and continuing into their adult lives the members of the 1981 Purdy Lady Eagles basketball team continued to bleed black and gold, supporting their alma mater in a variety of ways and continuing to inspire young Lady Eagles to dream, work hard and proudly represent their beloved school, both on and off the basketball court. When the 2011 Lady Eagles basketball team advanced to the Final Four the 1981 ladies were there, at the send-off assembly and at the tournament, cheering on their protégés, who grew up hearing the stories of the legendary 1981 Purdy Lady Eagles State Championship Team.
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