Both Dirk and Tonya Brown love their hometown of Mechanicsburg. And field hockey. And basketball.
There's one thing they love more than all of those things combined, though: each other.
Spending just five minutes with the two of them together, it's easy to see why the 1982 graduates of Mechanicsburg have been married for 32 years. They were high school sweethearts in the 1980s and have been together a total of 38 years.
Dirk and Tonya both share the same passion for sports and Mechanicsburg — so much so that they decided to settle down where they grew up.
Tonya is the head field hockey and assistant girls basketball coach with Mechanicsburg High School, while also serving as the Director of Parks and Recreation for Mechanicsburg. Dirk previously worked in retail for 34 years before going back to school and getting a teaching degree. He is set to start a new job with Susquenita High School in the fall working with emotional support students.
Tonya has been coaching for around 33 years, so Dirk knows the ins and outs of what it takes to get through a season. Or a couple of seasons.
"We call it ‘crock pot season,’" Dirk said with a big laugh, eliciting one from Tonya next to him. "We eat out of a crock pot from [the start of field hockey season] through basketball season."
And even through all of those crock pot meals, when asked if there's anything that makes it hard on the two at home when the season starts, Dirk was quick to shake his head.
"It’s a very enjoyable season — she’s in her element, she’s an awesome coach, and I love watching her coach," Dirk said. "If she wasn’t doing it she wouldn’t be happy — if she wasn’t doing it I wouldn’t be happy, let’s be honest.
"In the beginning, maybe so, and that was more so on my part. I always traveled for my job and come home and she would be either at practice or heading off to practice. That time together was limited, but as you grow and mature as a person ... it’s so worth it. I adjusted quickly, and I tried to come out to the games as much as I could."
The two do, however, try and get away before the season starts and spend some time together. The two always try and go on vacation before their schedule becomes one big, hectic mess.
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"It’s week after week of something before the season starts," Dirk said. "But it’s exciting for me because we’re at a stage in our life where our kids are grown [Hannah is 23 and Josh is 27], so it’s back to the point where we were when we were first married and not having children, per se. It’s nice to be able to come out and support when I’m not coming out with a diaper bag and a stroller and those kinds of things. I can have a little bit more fun watching the game."
Both Dirk and Tonya appreciate the support they get from the kids Tonya has coached through the years, and both have been to many former athletes' weddings.
To Dirk, that's one of the most enjoyable rewards that comes from his wife's years of coaching.
"What she does is what she loves to do, and she gets such a good turnaround from the kids," Dirk said. "The kids [have so much] love and respect for her. The kids come back to our house and see us after graduation, and that’s very heartwarming to hear stories from them about their experience in Mechanicsburg playing field hockey for her."
Dirk is also quick to mention how proud he is of what Tonya had done through her 30-plus years. His face lit up every time he talked about how proud he was of her interactions with the kids she coached and what she did with the community and Mechanicsburg.
He is her biggest support system.
"I’m very happy and very proud to be her spouse and support her in what she loves to do with hockey and basketball," he said. "Her passion for kids. Just her passion in general. She loves Mechanicsburg, she bleeds maroon and gray. Her heart is in it for the kids, and there’s not a selfish bone in her body. She will do anything for any kid that asks of her. ... And sometimes they don’t and she just feels the need to go and fulfill that need whether the kid knows that they have one or not.
"They have been her loves, and they will be until they close the casket."
Let's correct that a moment, courtesy of a friendly tap on the shoulder from Tonya.
"Well, be cremated, anyway," Dirk said laughing. "She’ll go to her grave with the sport."