OLD FORT - Sophomore Tyler Bowes has been holding down a local athletic department's fort for five years.
Jude Meyers, athletic director and interim superintendent of the Old Fort Local School District, said Tyler is a tremendous asset to the school.
"I don't think you can even put a value on (what he means to the school district). ... The community's truly blessed to have an individual like that," he said.
Tyler, 15, has been serving as the district's student athletic director, has achieved a 4.0 grade point average, is studying to become a pilot and participates in the band and choir.
He said he enjoys doing what he does for the school and community.
"I enjoy helping people," he said.
Tyler first started his involvement with the athletic department by serving as the boys basketball manager.
Steve Adelsperger, who is the high school health and physical education teacher and was the boys basketball coach, needed someone to record film for the team.
His wife, Jenny, had had Tyler in her fourth-grade class, and Tyler became in charge of setting up the camera, filming the game, making sure the tape didn't run out and taking care of the equipment as a fifth-grader.
Tyler now serves as the student athletic director, and his responsibilities have increased to include all three sports seasons.
Tyler, whose services are nearly all volunteer, sets up and takes down equipment for games, assists officials, gets out coolers, ensures teams have drinks, runs a scoreboard and clock and helps with sports banquets. He also tapes basketball games, attends all boys basketball practices and usually runs the clock.
Adelsperger, who described Tyler as reliable and responsible, said he doesn't think people understand all the things Tyler does for the district. He makes the job easier for whomever is in charge the night of the activity because he knows what needs to be done, he said.
"He does a lot of things people don't see," he said.
Tyler has been the constant face in the athletic department over the tenures of three athletic directors: Bill Fries, Eileen Kleinfelter and now Meyers.
Fries recalled being asked whether he would go to Old Fort to serve as the athletic director. Although he wasn't too anxious about doing it after having retired for the third time, he was talked into taking the position.
He said he asked Tyler, who had been helping Adelsperger, whether he wanted to assist in the department.
Fries said he was only going to work at Old Fort for one year but stayed longer.
He said he thinks Tyler had a big influence on him returning for the second year.
Fries, who told Tyler a person needs to dress sharply when serving as the athletic director, gave Tyler a bagful of ties.
"He dresses professionally; he'll wear a tie," Meyers said.
Fries said Tyler could work as a full-time athletic director at any school in the area. When Tyler is given an assignment, it is not just done, but is done right, he said.
"You never have to check on him," he said.
Fries, who had some health issues, said Tyler knows right from wrong and is not going to be influenced by people doing things improperly. He said he tries to stay in touch with Tyler.
"I hope it's lifelong," he said about the friendship.
Kleinfelter, who is the elementary physical education teacher, followed Fries as the athletic director and met Tyler in June 2008. She recalled being told how amazing and helpful he was.
"He was, and he still is," she said.
Kleinfelter described Tyler as a patient, meticulous, responsible and humble student who cherishes the small things and doesn't take things for granted. He is the second-hand man when it comes to running the athletic department, she said.
"He does so much for the school, he's priceless," she said.
Meyers recalled starting as the K-12 assistant principal and athletic director when he first came to Old Fort, and everyone asked whether he had met Tyler yet. Kleinfelter arranged for the two to meet.
"Getting to work with him over the course of the year, he's probably the most responsible, dedicated (and) just focused kid that I've ever met, and he helps out with the athletic program, and he is there for every event, junior high (and) high school, and he helps out as manager with the boys basketball team but he is at every event," he said.
With the appointment of Meyers to the interim superintendency, Tyler's responsibilities have increased.
Meyers said he thinks there are students who are helpers, but Tyler is much more than a helper.
"He wants to learn," he said.
Meyers recalled taking a family vacation over Christmas and telling Tyler an administrator would be the adult in charge. When Meyers returned, he found a one-page typed report about what he had missed on his desk from Tyler.
Meyers said Tyler is a blessing to the district, and he doesn't know what he would do without his help.
"Everything procedurally that an athletic director would have to do, he knows how to do," he said.
Plowing through challenges
Jody Scaife, kindergarten teacher at the elementary school, had Tyler in class and said he was one of those children a teacher admired. He was the apple of his parents' eye, she said.
"They were always involved, (and) they were always concerned about how he was doing. The communication was there. ... We worked together really well," she said.
Tyler's mom, Deb, died when he was 10 years old. He said losing her was upsetting, and he guesses people have to accept life how it happens.
"Just have to keep moving on, whatever happens," he said.
Tyler said his dad, Dan, inspires him and always helps him get through bad things that happen.
"We've gone through a lot of challenges," he said.
Tyler has worn hearing aids ever since he was about 3 years old. When he was young, he would watch his parents' lips as they were talking.
"They didn't know I couldn't hear," he said.
The family learned Tyler was 70 percent deaf. Tyler said he thinks he has been deaf since he was born and described himself as a good lip reader.
"I can hear well enough (that) I don't need to use sign language," he said.
Tyler plays the alto saxophone in the band and sings bass and baritone in the choir. He said his lack of hearing does not affect either activity.
He said with wearing hearing aids, he can hear how his instrument sounds when he plays it.
Karen Beleny, the music director at the high school, has Tyler in band and choir. She said Tyler, who runs the sound and light board for performances, is every teacher's dream because always does his work, always is paying attention and always is focused on what the teacher is doing.
"He's there to get an education," she said.
Beleny said Tyler never asks for special treatment.
"He's an excellent representative of Old Fort's student body. ... He is involved in everything, music, sports. He films all the sporting events. He helps out with anything that the athletic director needs. If a teacher needs something, he is more than willing to help out with whatever (needs done)," she said.
Tyler said he watches the Toledo Mud Hens, Cleveland Indians and Ohio State University basketball, mows lawns in the summer, plays a flight simulator program online and likes to ride his bicycle, play with his 6-year-old golden retriever Ginger and spend time with family and friends.
He also has been taking flight lessons for two years and said he will fly solo after he turns 16 May 2.
Tyler has been going through the private pilot ground school course in Fremont. He is taking the course, which is a requirement to get a pilot license, a second time as a refresher. He said he has logged 30 hours of flight.
"I've had a few instructors," he said. "My main one is Tim Williams and then Rex Damschroder."
Tyler's interest in flight started when he was 10 years old and flew for the first time. He and his father flew by jet to California to visit friends.
Tyler took his first flight lesson a day after he and his dad visited Fremont's airport to inquire about it. He said Damschroder wanted to know whether Bowes could hear other planes and tower traffic and wanted to make sure the hearing aids and headphones would work. The trip was to Toledo Express Airport.
"I said it was good, and I could hear them," he said.
Tyler said he would like to go to Ohio State and eventually would like to become a commercial airline pilot or airline captain.
"You won't find a nicer gentleman than he is," Fries said.