Former Libby tennis player
honored for accomplishments
By Tyler Whitney
Travis Johnson poses with his award. Photo courtesy of Margie Johnson.
Though our small population sits poised on the fringes of the country, our community builds up individuals that can excel anywhere in the U.S. Nearly 2,000 miles away from here, Travis Johnson, born and raised in Libby, has received the prestigious Member Organization of the Year award in for his work at the Chenal Country Club in Little Rock, Arkansas from the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Since taking his job as director of the club, Johnson has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of tennis training for patrons of all ages. Though he has received many awards, from Arkansas Tennis Pro of the Year in 2005 to countless team championships, the Member Organization of the Year award acknowledges not only his achievements, but the collective accomplishments that his Tennis program has achieved in its “outstanding efforts in promoting tennis in Arkansas.”
Such passion and achievement does not materialize from thin air, it has to be developed, formed, and taught. Without hesitation, Johnson hands over credit to a Libby community that he still takes pride in.
For many small towns, tennis isn’t a given: it doesn’t draw huge crowds and tennis culture doesn’t have the same history as football or basketball.
Often, however, the best portions of a small town’s personality come from an individual who has a vision and drive to bring that vision to life regardless of precedent. Herb Neils was one of those people to Johnson. In the 80’s, when the racquet club was a “hopping busy place…Herb was the kind of guy that would be like, mow the grass or feed the horses to pay for the tennis lessons.” Neils wanted to pass on tennis, regardless of the circumstances a kid may be stuck in.
When Johnson first received the opportunity to hold a tennis racquet and hit the ball in that small-town club, the ball “went straight from the racquet to his heart.” From that point on, his life was changed. He went on to York Christian College in Nebraska where he met his wife, Cherele; and it was then only because she was wearing a Wimbledon t-shirt—a piece of clothing that could be bought from traveling to the prestigious tennis championships in London, England—that he noticed and fell in love with her.
After their wedding, they moved to Arkansas to be near her family and they had two sons, Cody and Connor. Wanting to share his passion for tennis and, “make sure that they would have a program he would be proud of them to join,” Johnson accepted a role as Director of Tennis at the Chenal Country Club in 2006. From there he developed the adult program, but also paid special attention to the junior program, wanting to show them the same passion for the sport back in Libby. Under his direction, many have been nationally recognized and have been able to move on to play competitively at the college level.
Regardless of his drive for achievement, however, he promised to himself that even if he had to lose out on his coaching role, he would never lose his “dad role” or forget about his family. He attributes this dedication to family to his upbringing in Libby where neighbors and friends would take care of each other no matter what. Whether it was food or a “good whipping,” the community was always there. Ultimately, however, it was the sense of hard work that Johnson took most to heart, the people of Libby passed on a “great example of working hard” and how to “make things happen.”
Though retirement is still far ahead, he hopes someday that he can come back and continue Herb Neils’s legacy and offer the same opportunities he was offered as a kid. For despite moving 2,000 miles away, this is still home. “I might live in Hot Springs,” he said, “but I am still from Libby.”
Troy students create Wild in Montana (WIM Novelties)
Wild in Montana didn’t start as a business, it started as 18 students who all had a passion for art and their hometown.
In 2017, the small town of Troy was surprised when a tree from our very own Kootenai National Forest was chosen to be the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.
Organizations from around Troy made unique ornaments to send to the government for possible use on the tree. The Troy High School Art Club created ceramic fish ornaments, and was delighted to find out they had been used for invitations to the Federal Christmas Celebration.
Two years later, this act has turned into what we now know as WIM (Wild in Montana) Novelties.
The Wild in Montana school business makes it part of their objective to teach students the complexity of being part of an active business and the steps they can take to become entrepreneurs.
The community of Troy has had a decline in job opportunities in recent years, a trend that has negatively affected every corner of the small town. We believe it is important to not only teach youth how to create their own jobs, but also broaden the horizon of opportunity for our students.
Now, a new group of individuals have come together and are using their unique abilities to create something that can give them knowledge and experience for the rest of their lives. Each student works towards providing products that will add a touch of joy and a whisper of the Montana wilderness into a home. From the indigenous species of fish to the black bears, we produce novelties inspired by our beautiful local wildlife for all to see. This is what Wild in Montana has become, and we are excited to see what more we can do for our community and your homes.
WIM Novelties launched on Monday, Dec. 2, and since then they had their first big sale at the Christmas Craft Fair in Troy. The event went extremely well and they have grown as a business. Since the Christmas season is over, they have been brainstorming numerous ideas of what to make next. With that being said, make sure to check out their website www.wildinmontana.com for their beautiful handcrafted pieces. Also make sure to follow their social medias for details of what is going on and what is next to come. You can find them on Instagram at wildinmontana or Facebook at WIM Novelties.
Troy’s Wild in Montana (WIM Novelties) group poses for a photo courtesy of Emma Johnson