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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Excelling at Bowsher sports all in a South Toledo family

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For 28 straight years, at least one member of the Khoury family displayed athletic prowess at Bowsher High School.

With the closing of the old high school on Detroit Avenue, the South Toledo family's legacy also has come to an end. Eight members of the Khoury family earned all-City League honors from 1980 through 2008.

Six daughters dominated on the volleyball court and two sons excelled at football and baseball.

Tony Khoury, who graduated in 1989, experienced the most success as a Rebel. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and played three seasons of minor league baseball.

"There are a lot of good memories from that high school," Tony said. "We had a lot of good times there. Those feelings intensified a little bit [with the school's closing]. That was a significant portion of our lives."

Dee Dee Khoury was the last of the Khourys to play at Bowsher. She graduated this spring after playing four years of varsity volleyball. Dee Dee was a first team all-city and all-district performer last winter.

"I didn't know much about [the Khoury legacy] until I got to Bowsher," Dee Dee said. "Once I got there everyone knew my last name. They knew my family. My teachers would say they couldn't believe I was the last Khoury to come through."

She added, "That's when I started to realize how important it was. I heard about it all the time."

Tania, Tony, Sam, and Lisa Khoury established the tradition in the 1980s and early 1990s. Then their first cousins, Nicole, Nina, Alicia, and Dee carried it on through the rest of the '90s and early into this century.

"People knew the name before I even got there because of my sister Tania. She was very popular," Tony said.

Sister Lisa (Khoury) Hajjar, who graduated in 1992, played volleyball for four years and was a first team all-district performer.

"Lisa played softball, basketball, and volleyball," Tony said. "She could have played in college somewhere. Sam was very good as well. We just grew up playing sports. Everyone just followed suit."

While Lisa was wrapping up her Rebel career, the first of four Khoury cousins was just starting hers.

Nicole Khoury, who is now a local attorney, also played volleyball. Nicole graduated in 1995 after earning all-City League and all-district recognition. Nicole's sister Nina carried on the tradition.

Nina (Khoury) Elliot graduated in 1999 and went on to become a prolific singer. She has sung the national anthem at a number of pro sporting events, including Mud Hens games and Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers games.

Alicia Khoury followed Nina, earning a scholarship to play volleyball at Owens Community College and then at Newberry College. Alicia, who graduated from Bowsher in 2002 after earning all-district accolades, now coaches the sport at a high school in Charleston, S.C.

Dee Dee said she played basketball and softball when she was young. But she took an interest in volleyball when she started watching her sisters and cousins play the sport.

"I'd be in the gym all the time watching them practice. Then I started to play with them," Dee Dee said. "All the girls in the family taught me about volleyball. They told me I had good hands and that I should stick with it. That's where it came from."

But Dee Dee said she did not feel pressure to live up to the Khoury legacy.

"It was more exciting than anything," she said. "I thought, 'Man, I'm the last one. I have to do something good now.'•"

In fact Dee Dee landed a scholarship to Robert Morris College in Chicago. She begins training next month.

"I knew I wanted to continue playing," Dee Dee said. "But it's kind of scary going to Chicago. No one knows my name there."

Ironically, Tony Khoury said his father initially did not want his kids to participate in sports. Tony's parents, Wafeek and Mariam, immigrated to America from a small town in Syria in the 1960s.

"My dad did not even want us to play athletics," he said. "He came across the world and was working in a factory. He wanted us to concentrate on academics to be in a better place than he was." But when baseball scouts began coming to Tony's games when he was a sophomore, his father had a change of heart.

"He and I talked about getting a scholarship," Tony said. "He really caught on and now has a real appreciation for athletics."

Tony was drafted by the New York Yankees when he was at Bowsher and was later picked up by the Cubs. He was a pitcher and catcher in the minor leagues from 1993-96. Injuries to his thumb and elbow eventually ended his career.

"It was a lot of fun. We won a Florida State League [Single A] title in 1995," he said.

But Tony said he was a bit apprehensive when he first stepped onto an athletic field at Bowsher.

"I didn't have that much confidence in my athletic ability coming in," Tony said. "It wasn't until my sophomore year that I felt I could play varsity."

Dee Dee said the family regularly attended her volleyball matches at Bowsher.

"They were always there. I had so much family come to watch me. I had sisters, cousins, aunts, and my mom and dad," Dee Dee said.

"It was good to see Dee Dee wrap it up nicely," Tony said. "It caught me by surprise a little bit. She was just a baby when I left for college. I'm so impressed with how well she is doing."

Tony traces the success of the family back to his parents.

"We are a close-knit family. I think a lot of the things that the eight kids accomplished were because of the way we were raised," Tony said. "They're lively and fun and very competitive.

"You should see our family reunions," he added. "Everyone is still very competitive. We see who can cook the best. We even joke about who has the most kids."

Dee Dee said rekindling a Khoury tradition in the new Bowsher High School on Arlington Avenue is not out of the question.

"It could happen," she said.

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-304-4760.



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