The City of Clovis honored five famous residents by unveiling cultural honoree banners in their honor Feb. 8 along the Old Town Trail.
The new banners, which are displayed on the Clovis Heritage Walk section of the trail, feature the images of rodeo champion Wilbur Plaugher, former Major League Baseball pitcher Mark Gardner, race car legend Michael “Blackie” Gejeian, Olympic gold-medalist Cathy Ferguson and former United States Ambassador Phillip Sanchez.
“We wanted to do something along our trail to recognize the talent from our community,” said Greg Newman, a member of the Clovis Tourism Advisory Committee – the organization that founded the Heritage Walk project. “Each year, we look at prospective nominees to have these banners dedicated after and we’re very proud of this year’s group of recipients for this great honor from the City of Clovis.”
Unveiled first was the banner of Ferguson, who was in attendance. She competed at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she received the gold medal for winning the women’s 100-meter backstroke and another gold medal as a member of the first-place U.S. team in the women’s 4×100-meter medley relay. In 1978, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an “Honor Swimmer.”
Ferguson, who found her way to Clovis about a decade ago, still resides here and serves as the chief executive of the Girl Scouts of Central California South.
“My husband Greg and I have found our home here in Clovis I plan to remain here the rest of my life,” Ferguson said. “I find that it’s a wonderful community that has a small-town feel but has everything you need. We have truly made our home here in Clovis.”
Also in attendance to soak in the honor was Gardner, former Major League Baseball pitcher for the Montreal Expos, Kansas City Royals, Florida Marlins, and San Francisco Giants.
In his Major League Baseball career, Gardner pitched in 345 games, posting a record of 99–93 and a 4.56 ERA.
“I have very fond memories of growing up in Clovis and attending Clovis Unified School District,” said Gardner, a Clovis High and Fresno State grad. “My family and I were in Clovis when we first moved to the area, but we were in the Fresno [Unified School] District. So, when I got to the point of going to high school, my parents moved into the Clovis District and we really flourished once we got there.”
After his playing days Gardner went into coaching, serving as the Giants’ bullpen coach from 2003-2017, and contributing to three World Series championships. He remains with the organization today in a front office role.
Gejeian, Plaugher and Sanchez had family members and friends in attendance to receive the honor on their behalf.
Located just north of Shaw on the east side of Clovis Avenue near Lowe’s, the Clovis Heritage Walk presents a number of art installments which represent a diverse cultural mix of people that helped create and shape the City of Clovis.
The Tourism Advisory Committee began the Clovis Heritage Walk project in 2013 when City Council agreed on the plan to display the banners and approved a budget to continue adding about five new banners a year to the trail. TAC spent two years researching and creating a list of successful and famous people who hail from Clovis, live or lived in Clovis, or attended Clovis Unified schools.
In November 2015, the city presented the freshman class of banners featuring Franklin Antonio, Chris Colfer, Ken Curtis, Maria Echaveste, and Daryle Lamonica.