Handy Details Life Experiences, Career In New Book

Handy Details Life Experiences, Career In New Book
Al “Hondo” Handy is pictured with his new book, “Defying Expectations: Family, Sports & Recreation.” Copies will be available for purchase in local stores and online. Photo by Bethany Hooper

OCEAN CITY – A longtime fixture in the resort community is embarking on a new venture with the release of his first book.

Since retiring from Ocean City Recreation and Parks in 2019, Al “Hondo” Handy has been hard at work writing and publishing his first book, “Defying Expectations: Family, Sports & Recreation. The memoir, which shares his personal and professional experiences, will be celebrated with a book launch scheduled for Sept. 24.

“I think this book shows you the value of family and what it means to you,” he said. “Also, once you’ve set your goals, don’t let people deter you from reaching those goals.”

Handy, a Bishopville native, returned to the Eastern Shore in 1980 after a brief stint with the Harford County Recreation and Parks Department to take on the role of public grounds specialist for the Town of Ocean City. And over the next three-plus decades, he would work his way up to the role of Ocean City Recreation and Parks manager.

But Handy said he did not want to stop there. He explained he had always wanted to write a book.

“To be honest, throughout my years working with the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department, I would tell my coworkers I wanted to write a book,” he said. “I would even write down snippets of funny things to put in my book. It’s been on my bucket list for years.”

Upon his retirement in 2019, Handy set out to make his dream a reality. His first book, “Defying Expectations: Family, Sports & Recreation,” will be released this fall.

“I’ve been retired for three years, but I finally got it done,” he joked.

Handy said writing a book came with its challenges.

He noted, however, that he had learned a lot in the process.

“I wish I knew then what I know now,” he said. “I think the biggest challenge was what the format should be, and showing people rather than telling people, making them fell like they are part of the book.”

A synopsis of the book reads, “An inspiring memoir about a young black man defying the odds by becoming one of the first black kids to attend an all-white school before integration, win a basketball state championship, and continue to thrive throughout his career. This is just one example of the many obstacles Al “Hondo” Handy had to overcome to become the influential and determined man he is today.”

The synopsis continues, “This book is perfect for anyone with a dream that seems impossible. By reading Al’s story, you will feel inspired to chase your goals no matter what stands in your way.”

Handy said his 230-page book details his experiences growing up on the Eastern Shore.

For example, the memoir shares Handy’s journey as one of the first Black students to attend Stephen Decatur.

“I went to an all-Black elementary school, Flower Street,” he said. “Then in sixth grade, we all got information that the schools would be integrated … My entire family went to Worcester High School, but when we got that letter me and a few guys went to Stephen Decatur.”

Handy said his book also discusses the importance of family and details the ways in which family members have shaped his life.

He pointed to his uncles and brother, whose passion for the game of basketball inspired him to play the sport as well.

“They became like mentors to me …,” he said. “Playing sports became my life and it all came from them. It also led to me going to college and being the first family member to earn a four-year degree.”

Prior to playing basketball at Salisbury State University, Handy was a key player on Stephen Decatur High School’s 1970 state championship team. He said his book also recalls that pivotal moment in his life.

“Our basketball team brought our whole community together …,” he said. “That had never been done before. Blacks and whites came to games together, talking together, sitting together.”

The memoir also shares his career experiences with the Harford County Recreation and Parks Department and with the Town of Ocean City.

He noted his return to the Eastern Shore also provided an opportunity to coach local kids.

“When I came back to the area, I started a youth basketball league in Berlin at Flower Street. They never had a summer league for youth,” he said. “We got up to eight teams at one point, and in between I got a job at the recreation and parks department.”

Handy said he hopes his book will inspire others to pursue their goals, despite the obstacles that may get in their way. He said his book is “perfect for anyone with a dream that seems impossible.”

Copies of “Defying Expectations: Family, Sports & Recreation” will be available for purchase at local stores later this fall.

The book is also available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $24.99 (release date October 20). Handy, noted, however, that eBooks are now being sold for $8.99.

To promote his new book, Handy will also hold a book launch and signing at the Residence Inn Ocean City on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 1-3 p.m. Happy hour begins at noon, and light appetizer will be available. Copies of “Defying Expectations” will also be available for purchase.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.