By Kathleen Downey
Whether gently applying treatment to assist the healing of an arm injury to a little girl and budding gymnast, or to a burly man with a shoulder injury, or to a woman who tries to blame her shoulder aggravation on her dog . . . John Wile treats each of his clients with a deftness that comes from years of physical therapy training, and with a compassion that is rooted in Wile’s humility.
The clinic manager for Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital Network, Wile’s life has been informed by a passion for fitness.
“As a kid, I played a lot of baseball and football,” says Wiles, who as a senior at Newburyport High School (class of 1976), was a state Super Bowl football champion.
One of three children (Wile has two brothers and a sister), Wile grew up in the city’s South End. His memories are poignant, mixed with a love of sports and a love of family.
Wile recalls walking to school each morning, first to the Brown Elementary School and later the Jackman Middle school. Each day he would return home for a lunch prepared by their mother.
“My dad would also come home for lunch,” says Wile. His father worked for Massachusetts Electric (now National Grid) on Water Street. “We had the luxury as a family of sitting down together each day for breakfast, lunch, and supper.”
One winter afternoon Wile’s father climbed a utility pole, in the course of his job, and spotted a small frozen pond, where Alden Merrell is now located. “My dad came home and told us kids, ‘Get your skates!’ We returned and skated for the afternoon on ice that was like glass.”
“I wanted to be an athletic trainer,” Wile shares his original career ambition. He went to Springfield College and earned a degree in Physical Education.
It was during his sophomore year that he started running to stay fit. He joined the school’s cross-country team as a junior and later got into steeplechasing.
Summer months were spent lifeguarding at Salisbury Beach. “There were about 60 of us who covered the beach from the Merrimack River to the Salisbury/Seabrook Line,” says Wile. He recalls the morning drills led by head lifeguard “Boots” Chouinard. “We’d run, swim, or do sprints. And we’d enter competitions with other lifeguards from Hampton and from the Cape.”
Wile had been considering returning to school for exercise physiology when one of his former professors from Springfield College telephoned. He invited Wile to come to Mississippi State, where the professor was then teaching, to take a teaching assistant’s position. Wile accepted.
“I taught coaching theory to students who would become teachers in the Phys Ed field,” Wile says.
When he returned to Newburyport, Wile joined a small group of friends in a custom running shoe enterprise. One had been contracted by Keds to create a design. But when Keds scratched the design, the friend purchased the unused materials along with thousands of unconstructed components and purchased shoe-lasting machines from the mill district in Lawrence.
“We rented a barn in Exeter, NH, where we manufactured and sold our shoes through mail order.”Although the company was short-lived, it earned a top award for its sponsorship at a Boston road race. “We were the first winners as a startup company with fewer than ten employees,” Wile says with satisfaction.
Wile returned to school and studied physical therapy at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, from 1984 to 1988. “I was living in Saco, Maine with my wife and young son. But I was commuting back to Newburyport work night shifts at the Park Lunch.” Wile adds, “If it were not for Mike Doyle [owner of the Park Lunch], who rearranged the shift schedule to accommodate me, I don’t think that I would have made it through PT school.”
“When I finished PT school, I was fortunate enough to land a job here in Newburyport, at Seacoast Sports Medicine,” says Wile. He left Seacoast for a brief period in the early 1990s to work for a private physical therapy clinic at Cedardale Athletic club. “It was a great opportunity,” he says of his stint at Cedardale.
Then an even greater opportunity in his hometown of the Port presented itself: the role of Senior Director for Clinical Services at Anna Jaques Hospital. Wile’s prestigious position came with responsibility for radiology, cardiology, and the hospital’s wound center.
During his tenure at AJH, Wile went back to school—again. This time, he earned a license in nursing home administration.
“But I was starting to miss doing physical therapy work,” reflects Wile. One day he received an inquiry from an acquaintance opening a new physical therapy practice in Newburyport. He asked Wile to recommend someone to manage the clinic.
“After some thought, I called him back, met him for coffee . . . and I had a new job. I’ve been with Northeast Rehab for a year now,” says Wile. Wile’s current position seems to have been destined. “The VP for NE Rehab was the VP of finance at AJH when I was there,” Wile reveals.
Wile’s livelihood is his passion. “Yes, I really enjoy it,” he says, adding that helping someone recover from an injury through physical therapy gives him great satisfaction.
Fitness and family remain Wile’s other enduring passions. He now lives in Salisbury with Rachel, his partner, and two of her three sons, along with a willful beagle. Wile’s son through his former marriage is now an adult and lives in the Bromfield Street house where Wile grew up.
“I’d like to get back to hiking and rock climbing,” Wile says. He has fond memories of hiking the Presidential Range, including Mt. Washington during the winter months, and of climbing Cathedral Ledge.
Lately, Wile has been enjoying kayaking with Rachel on Plum Island Sound. He admits to being a “closet bird watcher” and is a frequent visitor to the Parker River Wildlife Refuge. He has no “must-see” birding list yet, “But I have my binoculars and I pretend to know what I’m doing,” Wile teases.
Kathleen Downey is the Features Editor for Newburyport Today. If you are a townie or a citizen who would like to be profiled (or to suggest someone to profile), or if you have an idea for a feature story, please email: Kathleen@Newburyport-Today.com.