Alum's volunteer planting praised by Southern board

Published: 9/20/2016 10:00 AM
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CATAWISSA RR — It may be 51 years since he graduated from Southern Columbia Area, but Michael "Mick" Fleming has dedicated most of his life to giving back to his alma mater.

He served as a junior high and JV basketball coach for eight years and girls varsity basketball coach for 17. He has volunteered his time watering the football field and a few years ago donated the trees seen planted in front of and around the school.

Fleming, who operated Fleming's Nursery/Landscaping, Elysburg, before retiring said, "I really think it's nice when people that are semi-retired give some of their time and energy and maybe even money for projects around any school district that can help that district save some money."

In August, while volunteering his time to move the sprinkler system on the football field, it was brought to Fleming's attention that the intended location to lay down memorial bricks purchased to help build the new Tiger Stadium entrance was not going to work.

With two weeks until the first game of the season, Fleming said he told Jim Roth, athletic director and head football coach, that he had an idea. He said he believed he could do something with the bricks along the fencing on the left-hand side of the walkway down to the field.

Fleming discussed the issue with Scott Tomcavage, head of maintenance, who took it to Superintendent Paul Caputo. Caputo and Roth both liked the idea.

With one week until kickoff, Fleming recruited some volunteers and got to work.

He and Frosty Peters spent two days laying bricks in an area along the walk-way, but Fleming said when they were finished, he stood back and noticed it was surrounded by all grass and didn't look as nice as he knew it could.

More than happy to donate more time, energy and plant materials, he decided instead of filling a small area in with plants, he would instead landscape a large area, beginning at the ticket booth and extending to the well-house at the bottom of the walkway.

Calling it a "labor of love," Fleming brought in trees, shrubbery and mulch from Fleming's Nursery/Landscaping, Elysburg, to spread throughout the area. The end of the season meant the black-eyed Susans and roses he planted weren't bringing the pop of color that he wanted for the area, but he had another solution.

"This time of year, it was hard to find annuals anywhere, but I know Brian Knoebel always has extras, so I asked him and they were glad to donate some," Fleming said.

With the changing of the seasons will come a change of landscaping. Fleming said John Marks, assistant football coach, came up with the idea to remove the flowers and decorate the space with straw bales, pumpkins and corn shocks for Halloween.

Caputo said Fleming is very modest and would be quick to share the credit for the work done. His assessment was on point. Fleming was quick to give credit to Jeff Fleming, Randy Milbrand, Curt Stellfox, football player Andrew Bell and coach Mike Johnston, who he said answered his call to help with the project in the summer heat.

Nonetheless, Fleming's years of dedication and time spent volunteering was commended by the Southern Columbia Area School Board.

His time wagtering the football field has been a tremendous time-saver for the school's three-man maintenance staff as it frees them to tend to other duties on the school's 110 acres, Caputo said.

Fleming wasn't present at the school board meeting Sept. 12, but his praises were sung. President Mike Yeager said he wanted to make sure Fleming was being commended for his work.

Fleming said he had no idea the school board had been commending him, but he was happy to hear they enjoyed the new walkway.

Caputo said, "He loves this school district and its students and wants to provide them a positive environment in which they learn and compete."

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