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With a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd packed inside the high school’s gym Monday afternoon, the Eminence community remembered the life of Dewayne Douglas and said a teary-eyed goodbye to the man that is better known as Coach D.
Douglas, who has served multiple positions at Eminence Independent School since 1991, died of an apparent heart attack in the early morning hours Friday, which shocked the school and the community. He was 51.
This school year, Douglas was the only physical education and health teacher in the entire school, which includes K-12, to go along with his duties as the head softball coach, head archery coach, assistant football coach, and weight and conditioning coach. After news of his death spread through Eminence, school was canceled, a candle-light ceremony was held Saturday night, visitations were held Sunday inside the high school’s gym and the funeral was Monday. School was also canceled Monday as the students and teachers filled the gym along with hundreds of others to give Douglas his farewell.
“Losing Dewayne leaves a huge hole in our school. He did countless things for our students, staff and community. There’s really going to be no replacing him,” said Steve Frommeyer, who is Eminence’s principal and head football coach. “We will find another teacher and fill all of his positions but Dewayne had an impact on the kids and the teachers, and he did things that only Dewayne could do.”
While at Eminence, Douglas also served as the head baseball coach, middle school girls’ basketball coach and was on his second stint as the softball coach before his sudden and unexpected death. He came to Eminence in 1991 as part of the JKG program (Jobs for Kentucky Graduates), then a few years later started his position as the P.E. teacher. He has been an instrumental part of the football team since the 1992-93 school year. Also, he started the archery program from scratch a few years ago. And as for softball, he resigned his position as the head coach shortly after the final game in May but recently decided to coach again this spring.
For those that knew Douglas — both inside the school system and outside — he will be missed, which was evident in more than 1,500 people at the visitation and a packed gym for the funeral. The funeral was handled by Prewitt Funeral Home but was held inside Eminence High School due to the large crowd.
“There were more people than any church or funeral home could handle,” Frommeyer said. “Plus, Dewayne would have appreciated it being on the gym floor where he worked for so many years. There were so many people there (funeral) from all walks of life.”
Douglas leaves behind his wife Debbie, two daughters Courtney and Kendra, and two sons John and Christopher. The funeral was officiated by Rev. Ed Berry, who was a friend of Douglas and is the pastor of Henry Christian Church. Douglas was later buried at Eminence Cemetery.
Before landing in Eminence, Douglas played four years of high school baseball in California and then played at Henderson State University, an NAIA program in Arkansas, as a pitcher. During his sophomore season, Henderson advanced all the way to the NAIA championship game, where they lost in the finals.
After joining the Army, Douglas ended up at Eminence High School in 1991, where he became a teacher and coach. He coached the girls’ softball team from 1991 until 1996, which included two years of slowpitch and four of fastpitch. After more than a decade away from the dugout, Douglas returned to the sideline in 2007 to take over the program from Corey Scriber.
“The main thing I want to do is make it enjoyable,” Douglas told the Local in a May 2007 interview after accepting the position as the softball coach. “I see too many players dread going to practice too many times. I want them to look forward to it, and have a good time while they are there, but also get something out of it.”
Aside from being highly involved at Eminence Independent School, Douglas also worked with the Dreams With Wings program, a non-profit organization that serves mentally handicapped adults. He was working the overnight shift at the program’s building in Eminence Thursday night, where he went to sleep and was found the next morning.
Until replacements are named, the Eminence staff will do the best they can with the empty positions, Frommeyer said. The archery squad is currently practicing twice per week to prepare for the upcoming season — Douglas attended Thursday’s practice less than 24 hours before his death.
“The kids were of course shocked to say the least,” Frommeyer said. “He had been doing well health wise and there was no sign of anything. It was a total shock to everyone. He and I were personal friends as well as colleagues and this is a huge loss to me personally. To work together so long... it’s just hard to imagine him not being here.”
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