Air Force vet, trainer helps clients battle Parkinson's with exercise
John Shearer, Shopper News
Military veteran Zach Guza helps people get physically fit to combat whatever adversaries they must face.
But in his class members’ case, the enemy is Parkinson’s disease.
To help in this area, he several years ago launched Rock Steady Boxing Knoxville, which is now in his new Black Dog Fitness gym at 9965 Kingston Pike just east of Pellissippi Parkway.
He started the affiliate business after realizing that the roughly 2,000 Knoxville area residents with the disease could do more than just feel discouraged or take medicine.
Through that and such other classes as the cleverly named Parkin’Spin (stationary bike exercising), music therapy and dance, he believes both his clients’ physical and mental conditions will improve.
“I see people come in shuffling their feet or tripping over the threshold, but when they walk out, they are happy,” he said, adding that he also has a ping pong table for therapeutic use. “Forcing your body to work that hard, it does amazing things.”
For Guza, getting involved in such a line of work is personal, as his father, Sam, had Parkinson’s. It's a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system and affects the motor system.
“He had never been told to get exercise (after his diagnosis), and he took a slow, terrible decline much faster than he should have,” he said.
The younger Guza can also relate to the mental aspect of his clients’ lives, if not the physical challenges, because he has battled depression, which can be one of the results of Parkinson’s.
An Air Force veteran for nine years, he had always thought of himself as “twisted and dark,” but in a good and fun sort of way. However, after returning to the civilian world and taking a stress-field job as an operations manager at a paper mill, he found himself getting depressed.
Through therapy, he realized what had been missing from his life in his post-military career was physical exercise.
“The first recommendation said to get back to exercise,” he said. “As I did, I realized it was such an important part of therapy for people with mental health issues. It is not that exercise is going to solve all your woes, but you get a feeling of personal accomplishment.”
That led to him beginning work as a personal fitness trainer. He also now has his own gym, named because a black dog symbolizes depression, and envisions more expansive in-gym classes focusing on the importance of physical exercise in mental health.
But for now, he is focusing on classes just for those with Parkinson’s disease. He said he has regularly been getting new people attending his classes, which he said are designed for all levels of the disease progression.
“Nobody is too far gone, if you can still move,” he said.
Pete Deuber has been attending the classes for several years since they began in another facility and said he loves them. In fact, he said that he missed the classes greatly during a recent medical procedure at Vanderbilt that slowed him for a couple of months.
“I was so happy to get back into boxing that I skipped in there like Fred Astaire,” he quipped. “I was just high on life and happy about being there.”
He added that Guza makes the classes light and fun and regularly cracks jokes, but he also challenges the participants to improve both physically and mentally during the workouts.
Those wanting more information about the classes can contact Guza at 865-387-0415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Activist Kim Frazier runs for commission
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Hardin Valley resident Kim Frazier is a dynamo of community activism. She carries on the tradition by running for Knox County Commission District 11 At Large, currently served by Justin Biggs. Biggs will vacate his seat for a bid as trustee.
Frazier knows how to get things done. She is founder of Hardin Valley Supports a Middle School, which was a two-year bid to alleviate crowding by building Hardin Valley Middle School, Gibbs Middle School and an additional middle school in the northwest, put on the five-year sector plan and now under construction.
This group grew into Hardin Valley Planning Advocates, an organization fighting for reasonable growth and solid infrastructure since 2018. She expanded her efforts to the Knox County Planning Alliance the same year.
Frazier is about connecting communities.
“People like to put me in a box and say ‘Oh, she’s the land use girl.’ People don’t realize that infrastructure is more than roads. It’s the economy, recreational offerings, mental health, career exploration, public safety, emergency services … and much more.
“What they’re coming to realize is that I’m about bridging gaps, building relationships, and getting everyone on the same page to make Knoxville attractive to businesses and to people looking to find a home.”
She said connecting communities is twofold. One, people should be more connected to their local leaders. Frazier promises to work full-time and to be easily accessible.
“I want to be accessible to the people at all times. I will be giving 110 percent, that’s one thing that makes me unique in this arena. Politics is not a side hustle to me. The commissioner seat is the next logical step in deepening my service to the people.
“The other part of connection is within Knox County government. Departments need to talk to each other better. There’s a disconnect between schools and the county, (Knoxville-Knox County) Planning and the county.
“It’s all about having intentional conversations and being willing to gain a different perspective.”
Frazier brings much to the table with her experience and dedication to getting things done for Knox County while being her own person. She said her only allegiance is to the people and places she hopes to represent.
“My parents taught me that if you see something that needs to be done you can’t wait on the sidelines for someone else to do it.”
Frazier lives in Hardin Valley with her husband, Russ, a physician, and sons Jackson, 17, and Maddox, 16. She came to the area 22 years ago when her husband, a Knoxville native, secured a residency at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Healthcare Administration from the University of Alabama Huntsville in 1996.
The Knox County primary is May 3.
Frazier has a public appearance at Backroads Market, 414 Walker St., 8:30-10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 10.
Check out these cool vintage-style signs hand-painted by Knox Flair artist
Ali James, Shopper News
No sign is too little or too big for Knox Flair artist Bud Ries, who specializes in painting, printing and graphic notetaking.
You may have spotted Ries’ work at Cruze Farm Dairy, at The Original Freezo or Relix Variety Theatre in Happy Holler, on the windows of Pete’s Restaurant or Clancy’s Tavern, or on the stairs at Lox Salon on Jackson Avenue.
Ries said he switched his professional focus to sign painting in 2015 when he quit his job at a screen printing shop and moved to New Orleans to enroll in a sign painting workshop at Mystic Blue Signs.
Ries has a deep appreciation for vintage signage and traditional painting techniques. He wants his vivid signs to be attention-grabbing, but also long lasting to withstand time and the elements.
“It is kind of cliché that it is a dying art making a comeback. There are just some surfaces that have to be hand painted, and some jobs will last longer and look better if they are painted by hand,” Ries said.
“The first sign was in 2013 for a community center, a shared space on Magnolia. I did little jobs here and there, but I didn’t really set my mind to it until 2015,” he said. “Then I painted temporary holiday decorations for a few restaurants, Pete’s Coffee Shop and Clancy’s Tavern.
“After the owners of Relix Theater saw me painting The Original Freezo, they asked me to repaint their old ghost ‘White Stores’ sign,” he continued.
“The challenge is exciting; I love researching the old businesses in the city.”
Post Signs, a prolific sign company whose work you can see around Knoxville, including the neon Mac Auto Loans sign, would sign their work so Ries knew that they painted the original White Stores signs.
“Sometimes the restoration jobs will be tricky. What was the original color? How can I restore it, keep it true and make it last and try not to paint over the charm?”
To date, a mural covering Cal Johnson Recreation Center’s basketball court is the biggest project in which Ries has been involved. It was part of Project Backboard, whose mission is to renovate public basketball courts and install large-scale works of art on the surface.
“Keep Knoxville Beautiful was looking for painters, and I was really honored to be a part of a large-scale effort,” said Ries. “With every project I learn a lot.”
Ries’ friend Jessica Hammonds, owner of Sister South Fine Foods, gave him full rein to not only design her logo, but also paint the outside of her food trailer. “I had to figure out how to do the faux wood grain; it was a challenge with all of the rivets,” he said of the rustic effect. “People still walk up to it and put their hand out to touch it.”
Ries’ art practice, now based out of the shared studio spaces at Relay Ridge, focuses on typography, "pithy" funny signs and his signature "NICE" and "You Ain’t Trash" images.
“I am so glad to be in there. I was operating out of a storage unit in East Knoxville,” he said. “I had one electrical outlet, no air-conditioning or running water, and I couldn’t work in it after 7 p.m.”
Ries said he enjoys the community of other artists and that it is great to have others to bounce ideas off, share supplies, equipment and general advice.
During the lockdown, Ries fell into graphic note taking. It is the skill of organizing and capturing information through hand-drawn images and text.
“I was invited to attend these Zoom calls,” said Ries. “After the call was over, I would digest it and put it into a more readable format.” The graphic notes could be condensed into a single frame the size of a laptop image or illustrated on a big roll of paper that can be converted into a scrollable image on a computer.
“I just fell into it. It is a fun side business, and clients seek me out to do it,” he said.
“Word of mouth has been my biggest form of advertising. I am interested in collaborating with people, and if they are curious about graphic notes, making functional screen printing frames, vinyl stickers and window painting, I am happy to talk to them.”
In addition to his new job as an art teacher at Ritta Elementary, Ries makes banners, temporary window splashes, vinyl stickers, and small run silkscreens.
Ries hopes to find a space somewhere to paint a mural-sized version of his "NICE" design.
At 99, Walter Thornton a pillar in Marble City
John Shearer, Shoppe News
Walter “W.C.” Thornton has spent much of his life making items — and a few friends. He also once used his mechanical and manual skills to keep airplanes running during World War II.
Approaching his 99th birthday this Jan. 17, the longtime Sutherland Avenue area resident is still moving along well, too, as he lives independently and can still drive himself needed places.
“I feel good,” he said in an amicable manner over the phone on Jan. 5. “I don’t know whether I have ever felt any better.”
As Thornton looked back on his life, including the importance his Christian faith has played in his longevity, he said he has lived in the immediate West Knoxville area for most of his years.
This man born one year to the day after the beloved and recently deceased actress Betty White said that when he moved to the Marble City/Pond Gap area as a teenager in 1938, it was a country community.
Marble City had been known over the years for being the residential neighborhood of several marble workers, including those at the Gray Knox marble company where the University of Tennessee’s Facilities Services building now is. Thornton’s father worked with wood instead of stone, though, as a cabinet maker with Witt Lumber Co., his son said.
After having lived in the Lonsdale area, the younger Thornton attended still-standing Rule High School as it evolved from just being a junior high. Because he wore eyeglasses, and the family could not afford to buy extra pairs, he did not play sports, he said, but enjoyed the school. His family believes he is the last member of his class still living.
In 1943-45, he served in what became the Air Force as a specialist who worked on the engines of the C-47 military transport aircraft.
“If something went out of commission, I was supposed to know how to repair it,” he said.
Like the pilots, he experienced his own challenging time of being up in the air simply by having to climb a 12-foot ladder to work on the engines. He was stationed in England initially, and then moved to France after the D-Day invasion before ending up in Germany.
He felt fortunate that he saw no gunfire around him at the airfields, and only two planes were lost during the invasion. Overall, it was a fulfilling experience serving his country, he added.
“Our planes took troops and equipment and towed up to three gliders. It was quite an experience,” he said.
After the war, he began serving his community in a leadership position with the maintenance department of Knox County Schools. Like his father, he was able to use his carpentry skills in this realm.
“I worked in the cabinet shop and built kitchen cabinets for home economics teachers and replaced rotten doors and windows,” he said. “Whatever came up, I was able to do it.”
He worked under the pioneering female superintendent Mildred Doyle and said he respected her greatly. “She was a great boss,” he said. “She referred to me as one of the members of her family. She got along with everybody.”
He has now been retired for more than the 33 years he worked for the school system, and he spent plenty of his retirement doing repair and handyman work and mowing lawns.
“You name it, I have done it,” he said.
One unchanging aspect of his life, though, has been his faith and attendance at Marble City Baptist Church, which built its current sanctuary in 1942. “It has just been a church where I’ve been able to serve the Lord in various capacities and do His will for my life,” he said.
After the death of his first wife, Aileen, with whom he had a son, Alvin Thornton, and a daughter, Charli Heyer, he and second wife Ina lived in Sevier County. But he continued to travel 32 miles to church about twice a week.
After her death and during his reacquaintance with his now-deceased childhood friend, Evelyn Ousley, he had an opportunity to move into the church’s former parsonage.
Now, he is physically as close to his church and his beloved West Knoxville community as his heart has always been.
'Just enough' moonshine, but won't 'upset the preacher'
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Moonshine Mountain Cookies was “crazy busy” over the holidays with its corporate gift division.
“It’s not uncommon for someone to call up and instead of ordering five dozen they order 500 dozen. We package those up and ship them right out,” said co-founder Mike Maddux.
“If you taste our cookies, you can tell they’re like nothing else,” said Maddux. “In fact, many of our reviews said ‘It’s more than a cookie ... it’s dessert.’ That’s our favorite slogan. It came from our customers.”
There are a multitude of flavors to be had, such as John Lemon Blue Berry, Caramel by the Sea, Christmas Magic, Berry White, Rocky Top, Choco Khan, Sugar Shine, Nutty Buddy Holly, and Happy Pappy. All are a mountain of chewy goodness.
“These are not adulterated cookies,” Maddux said. “There’s just enough moonshine in them to give them flavor, but not enough to upset the preacher."
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first cookies with moonshine, while rich with flavor, were nothing more than a messy blob. It took trial and error to come up with the distinctive mountain shape the cookies are known for today.
Baking with moonshine is not new to East Tennessee. It’s a tradition great-grandparents know all about. The small amount of alcohol burns off, leaving the flavor.
“When we started Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company, two things were red hot: bacon and moonshine. But there were and are still plenty of cookie companies out there. We had to do something to set us apart,” Maddux said.
Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company started in earnest in 2015 with the offering of a variety of flavors, some with a splash of moonshine from Ole Smoky Moonshine.
“Moonshine Mountain could well be a place in Tennessee," Maddux said. "A place rich with wholesome goodness where our cookies come from.”
Some 30 years ago, Maddux and Rick Dunlap were University of Tennessee roommates and lifelong friends. Mike found his sweetheart in Robin (now Maddux), and they became the dynamic trio behind Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company.
It all started when Mike’s entrepreneurial spirit set him on the road to owning his own pizzeria in his mid-20s. Robin baked chocolate chip cookies as a dessert offering.
Soon people were calling more for the cookies than the pizza. Dunlap offered the cookies to his clients as business gifts.
When the pizzeria closed, Dunlap, sworn to secrecy, took the recipe and continued offering the cookies at business gifts.
Today, Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company employs about 15. Most are students, and most seasonal employees come back year after year.
“It’s work, but we’re a team. We’re in it together and we’re all proud of what we do. It takes a special person to work here and my wife, Robin, knows how to recruit just the right person. So it’s a fun atmosphere,” Maddux said.
The cookies can be purchased at two storefront locations at 10205 Kingston Pike and 7343 Kingston Pike as well as online at moonshinemountaincookie.com. Or find them on Facebook.
Scholars’ Bowl 2022, bright minds, competitive spirits
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
It’s time once again for the East Tennessee PBS (ETPBS) Scholars’ Bowl — the 38th go-round for this tournament of academic champions, featuring some of the area’s brightest and most competitive high school students.
Host Frank Murphy, returning for his sixth season, has noticed some changes over the years. “The kids are becoming more TV-savvy.”
Murphy always offers a bit of coaching to the teens before the cameras roll regarding on-screen appearance.
“I tell them to sit up very straight, don’t look flat on camera — and sometimes they blow it off. But they have discovered that they can binge watch old shows online, and this year one of the guys said, ‘I watched myself from last year. I was slumping and it looked terrible.’”
Murphy laughs. “What looks weird in person looks normal on camera. I love talking to the kids about the behind-the-scenes angles of TV."
“You’re like the favorite uncle that the kids enjoy spending time with because you’re only concerned with making them look good,” says Ernie Roberts, executive producer for the series.
Some of the teams are even working out little routines to do during the “getting to know you” periods in between the rapid-fire Q&A. “It’s something to take advantage of this point in the game when there’s a little time,” says Murphy. “All the pressure just goes off.”
This year, 47 teams, including Knoxville teams from Halls, Central, Carter and Webb high schools, Hardin Valley Academy and Cedar Springs Homeschool, compete to answer questions in literature, language, science, art, math, geography, music, sports, history and religion and other subjects. Winning teams advance to rounds of 32, 16, eight, and four before the final two teams compete for the Frank Miller Memorial Trophy and a $1,000 cash stipend in the championship game.
Roberts and Murphy continue to be impressed with the competitors, and the fact that many of them are active in several areas, not just academics.
“I’ve always thought that in academics it’s not how smart you are, it’s how you manage your time,” says Roberts, who is a semiretired math teacher and former host of “Mathline.”
“You’ll find that these overachievers have the discipline, and put in the effort, to do that. I love when you hear about the kids who are also in band, run track, play tennis, baseball, softball, football. Some are in Future Farmers of America, the Model UN.”
The 2021 Bowl got a late start because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and director Joseph Fioravanti and technical supervisor Jim Sayne were tasked with reconfiguring the set, spacing the host and two teams far apart.
Instead of the familiar two-level panel console for the students, there were two separate consoles spaced far apart, which were then shown in split-screen.
The additional cameras required also allowed for closeups and more variety for the viewer. The same protocols were used this year.
Shows were taped during the fall of 2021 and began airing on ETPBS Jan. 10. They’ll continue every Monday until March 14, after which they’ll be rerun.
For more info, visit easttennesseepbs.org.
Traditions bend, but love wins
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
I think it was a failure of the imagination. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
A year ago, when we started planning Ethan and Amanda’s wedding, we were all talking about vaccines and the hope they held for the future. Even when the virus became politicized, I still believed that by the time the wedding rolled around, most people would be vaccinated and COVID-19, while still with us, would be firmly planted on the back burner.
Back then, I couldn’t imagine the delta variant. Even when Jordan, Joe, and my grandkids all contracted COVID at the start of the school year, I assumed the surge would be behind us by the time we needed to pick out bridesmaid dresses and plan a dinner menu.
A year ago, when we set the wedding date, I couldn’t fathom the omicron variant and the way it’s spreading around the world. I assumed we would still be hearing about COVID in the news, but I thought I would be done tracking case counts, hospitalizations, and daily positivity rates.
I never imagined that, weeks before the wedding, I would be trying to figure out a path forward that would keep our wedding guests safe and still allow Ethan and Amanda to have the wedding of their dreams.
I thought wedding cancellations were a thing of the past. I believed 2021 would be a better year than 2020 and that 2022 would bring new freedom and hope. That’s where I failed. I couldn’t foresee a world where 1 million people a day in the United States would be contracting the highly contagious omicron variant.
But here we are, 12 months later, trying to host a wedding during a pandemic. The thought makes me anxious. It keeps me up at night reading endless articles on the spread of the virus. It keeps me wondering when omicron will peak and if that peak will occur before the wedding.
But through all the hand wringing and the anxiety, there’s been one thought that has brought me some peace.
When I lie awake at night watching time tick by, I remind myself that people have been getting married for thousands of years. And in all that time, the wedding ceremony has remained a sacred and powerful tradition.
We still call witnesses to observe and to celebrate. Our vows are still solemn, our rings still a symbol of eternal love. Even in a pandemic. Even when the world feels upside down. Because as much as our lives have changed over the past two years, marriage is bigger than just one moment in time.
And in the end, if the wedding looks nothing like we imagined, Ethan and Amanda will still exchange vows and pledge their love for each other.
They’ll still be surrounded by family and friends even if some of them are only there in spirit.
They’ll have a beautiful wedding and a story to tell about declaring their love in a pandemic.
And they’ll be part of a timeless, very human, tradition.
I want Ethan and Amanda to have their perfect day, the one they pictured last year when the vaccine gave us so much hope. I want our guests to eat, drink, and be merry, and I want them to be carefree.
But there’s very little in my control as omicron sweeps across the country; I am not as powerful as I want to be. All I can do is focus on the simple beauty of two people vowing to spend their lives together and a ritual that has withstood the test of time.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper News brings you the latest happenings in your community