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Tim DeViese was in a midlife crunch.
His father was dying and his father-in-law had suffered a life-threatening stroke. His daughters were at college. He was thinking about getting a new job. He was juggling visits to his father's bedside in Titusville and his father-in-law's hospital room in Gainesville, where an emergency helicopter had taken him.
"On March 19, my dad passed away at 9:45 a.m.," he said. "At noon my father-in-law made a miraculous recovery. During this whole time I had seen there was a position coming open in Asheville. All these things are happening and there's a reason. We had the memorial service for my father on a Saturday. The resume was due on Wednesday."
The play was coming into focus for the former high school point guard, who faced a shot clock ticking down to decision time.
He had cared for his father until the end. His father-in-law was out of the woods, and would soon be sent home. The job at the YMCA was in the desirable North Carolina mountains, reporting to two executives that he knew and admired.
"In this size Y, they are probably the two best in the country," he said.
He was almost there, and on one of his evening walks on the beach where he lived, on Amelia Island off the coast at Jacksonville, he wanted to think and clear his head. He decided to ask his newly departed dad for advice, to give the question to him.
"I hadn't gone 300 feet and this ad comes on that I hadn't heard before or since," he said. "I was listening to Pandora, and you know how they play the same four ads over and over. And it was an ad for Asheville and it said, honest to God, 'Come to Asheville, it's different here, you'll fit right in,' and I said, 'Got it.'
"And the next sign was that the next song was by my favorite artist, James Taylor, 'Carolina on my Mind.'"
He mailed his resume the next day.
Three months later, on July 30, DeViese, who turns 55 next month, was on board as executive director of the Hendersonville YMCA, which has been in transition for several years. It is now part of the YMCA of Western North Carolina, and though it has an advisory committee it no longer has its own board. It is one of the branches of the larger organizations, along with the Y in downtown Asheville, the Reuters family YMCA in Biltmore Park, and others in Marion and Woodfin.
"I wanted to learn from Paul and John," he said of CEO Paul Vest and chief operating officer John Mikos. "When I came for the interview I saw that this Y had a really great foundation and whole lot of potential. What I saw it needed was everything I had done in the past and could do again."
That includes everything from shepherding through a major capital campaign and renovation, which everyone associated with the local YMCA agrees is needed, and installing the healthy living programming that DeViese has specialized in throughout his YMCA career. The local Y has 1,750 member units — individuals, couples and families — which translates into about 4,000 adults and children, he said. It's run by a local advisory committee of 12 people, four of whom also serve on the Board of Directors of the YMCA of WNC.
Subhed: Astronaut High School
DeViese was meant to be a team leader in the same way he was meant to come to Hendersonville.
He was exposed at an early age to top athletes and good coaching. The War Eagles team he led as a point guard at Astronaut High School in Titusville, Fla., had two future NFL stars: Chris Collingsworth, who became a star wide receiver at the University of Florida and in the NFL and today is a game broadcaster, and Wilber Marshall, the great Chicago Bears linebacker.
He also has the strong memory of growing up during the space boom on a street in Titusville where everyone but his dad, a car dealer, and one other man, an insurance agent, worked for NASA. For several days in April 1970 his house was full of NASA engineers, scientists and mathematicians doing calculations on how to get the disabled Apollo 13 back safely to earth. His dad, a Rambler, American Motors and eventually Chrysler dealer, had nothing to do with the space program, except for living among it and seeing a problem he wanted to fix. "He's like me. He's a convener of people," DeViese said.
After high school, DeViese entered, left and re-enrolled in the University of Florida — working as a UPS driver in between — finally deciding that exercise science ought to be his life's work. He was chosen to intern at the renowned Cooper Institute in Dallas, "the mecca of the exercise world."
Among his jobs was evaluating patients, which included the NBA star Karl Malone, the Dallas Cowboy rookies and a businessman he later learned was the oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.
Back in Gainesville, Fla., he worked with Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus.
DeViese hopes to put into effect in Hendersonville the life fitness programming he has spent his life promoting.
"The fact that you're doing something (for fitness) is extremely commendable," he said. "What we can show you is how to do it better science-wise."
And exercise is only part of the healthy living gospel that he preaches. He hopes to hire a nutritionist for the YMCA, and he has ambitious recruitment goals for corporate wellness partners. At the Jacksonville YMCA he increased the number of corporate partners from eight to 100.
He and his wife, Andra, a hospital dietary director, have two daughters in college. DeViese expects his wife to join him in Hendersonville next year after she completes a big project for the hospital group that employs her. In the meantime, he's commuting six hours back to Amelia Island on weekends.
His boss, YMCA of WNC CEO Paul Vest, said DeViese's background in health and wellness and community outreach fits perfectly with the Y's 2020 plan.
"I think over the last number of year we've worked hard to try to be more pro-active in the community not just with corporations but in general," Vest said.
While they were not ready to speak in detail about facility plans, both DeViese and Vest said that a makeover is a priority and that a move elsewhere has been discarded. A marketing study showed the "Y is exactly where it should be," DeViese said, at a gateway to town on a major thoroughfare, across from Pardee Hospital, in a known location. As for the building, "it's gray, it's old, there's hallways everywhere," he said.
Administrators have known since the consolidation was completed that the 54-year-old Hendersonville facility needed work.
"I think that's under evaluation as we speak," Vest said. "The local volunteers were very committed to seeing some attention on that facility. The community deserves to have a good facility. We are exploring some options to make that happen."
John Mikos, the WNC Y's chief operating officer, said the marketing study showed the Y in Hendersonville is valuable and in the right place but in need of a makeover.
"There's no question we would like to be able to renovate that facility, update it, and that is on our radar screen," Mikos said. It's important that local advisers and stakeholders drive the decision, he said, because YMCA executives in Asheville "made a promise that this Y will be the community's Y."
DeViese said he is ready to take on the leadership role whenever local leaders announce a makeover.
"This is probably my fourth facility project like this and I feel more confident in the eventual outcome of this one than I have any of the others," he said.