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They came in jeans and shirts, ties and suits. They came as current players, former players, students, coaches, family and friends. They filed in Eminence’s gym, found a seat in the stands and glared out onto the court almost like they were there to watch a game.
This time, though, they were there for a different reason. There were no referees, no balls and no team huddles or coaches yelling from the sideline. Everyone — hundreds of them — were packed inside Warrior Gymnasium Monday afternoon to say a final goodbye to one of their own, who was in the spotlight at center stage.
Dewayne Douglas was known for his hard work, never-say-quit attitude and loyalty as a teacher and coach at Eminence Independent School since 1991. He was laid to rest Monday afternoon in Eminence Cemetery after dying in his sleep early Friday morning at the age of 51. In the end, he left a trail behind that people will remember for generations. He will surely be missed.
Yes, Coach D’s death was unexpected. Yes, it was sudden. And yes, it sent most of those that knew him into an utter daze of confusion. But with family, colleagues, players and friends by his side, he went out just the way he would have wanted to — at the same school he spent his most memorable days, on the same court he so vigorously taught and coached, and with those he cared most about. Like a last-second touchdown or a nose-to-nose game on the field, it was just the finale Coach D would have been proud of.
At the funeral, stories were told as there were some laughter and plenty of tears. What was evident by the shear number of those that attended the candle-light ceremony Saturday night, the visitations Sunday and the funeral Monday, was how much Coach D was loved. For me, I felt honored just to write these words about a man that touched my life in the short time that I knew him.
Most people know Coach D from the sideline — the emotional leader on the football field, barking instructions and demanding his players to give 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. He’s also so much more, which this column could never explain no matter how hard I try.
His voice may have been silenced forever and his whistle may never blow again, but his memory will live on. There will be more teachers and coaches that come through the hallways of EHS. There will be more role models. There will be more people to write stories about. But through all this, his memory will live on.
I know his memory will live on because of those people that came together to pay respect to Coach D, remember his life and give him his final farewell. It was a finale we should all yearn for.
The current players — wearing their red football uniforms — stood, hugged and eventually went their separate ways, along with the hundreds of others that were in attendance Monday afternoon. The tears will dry and we will all continue to live our lives on a path that will never cross Coach D again.
But in the end, after he closed his eyes for the final time, Coach D’s memory will live on.
Tommie can be reached at email@example.com.