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'He was always there for me': Leverett's Chapel remembers coach

By Meredith Shamburger
March 9, 2017 at 7:07 a.m.
Updated March 9, 2017 at 7:07 a.m.

Students release balloons with their personalized messages to Leverett's Chapel coach Wes McWhorter during a memorial service being held in memory McWhorter, on Wednesday March 8, 2017, at Leverett's Chapel School. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

LEVERETT'S CHAPEL — Leverett's Chapel Coach Wes McWhorter always was thinking about his students, even after he fell ill with cancer.

"He did work last year even when he was sick," fiancée Mary Taylor said. "That was his thing, that he needed to get up here to see his students. It was probably about the most important thing to him, influencing the kids. He got that in the small school. He got to have more interaction and they were everything to him. They inspired him."

It was that influence students, faculty and community members remembered Wednesday in the Leverett's Chapel High School auditorium during a special memorial service to honor McWhorter.

McWhorter, a longtime assistant football coach and teacher at the school, died March 1 at age 50.

The memorial service included photos of the beloved coach as well as student recollections of his impact on the community. The service ended as students wrote goodbye messages on gold balloons, releasing them into the sky in the middle of the school district's small courtyard.

In leading a prayer, Matthew Morris encouraged students to use their grief and loss to come together more closely as a community.

"We ask that you comfort us on this day as we gather and share love, sweet memories, joyful memories of lovely Coach McWhorter," Morris prayed.

McWhorter was promoted to head coach and athletic director at the school district, but was unable to take the field because of a 2015 cancer diagnosis. He graduated from Longview High School in 1984, going on to attend Texas Christian University before earning a kinesiology degree from Stephen F. Austin State University. He spent more than 10 years in the restaurant business in Dallas before coming to Leverett's Chapel as a baseball coach and teacher.

Francisco Chavez, a 2015 graduate of Leverett's Chapel, first met McWhorter as a fourth-grader taking history. From junior high on, Chavez said, McWhorter was his coach.

"He was always there for me," Chavez said. "If I ever did anything bad, he was there to get onto me. But if I needed him, he was there."

While reading the poem "The Day God Called You Home," student Matthew Overman's grief overcame him. His fellow students followed suit, with cries of sorrow filling the small auditorium throughout the service.

"It broke our hearts to lose you," Overman read before breaking down in tears. "But you didn't go alone. For part of us went with you the day God called you home."

Student Aubrey Williamson read aloud memories written by her fellow classmates — memories of McWhorter offering comfort, support and humor to his students, such as his advice to one student while talking about life: "He told me if I want something, to work for it and never lower myself for anyone."

"Just remember that he is in a better place, and everyone on the football team, the whole school, loved Coach Mac," Williamson said in conclusion.

Leverett's Chapel High School Principal Matt Everett led the balloon release, reminding students of the lessons McWhorter taught. Everett served as head coach and athletic director over McWhorter for many years.

"We are reminded that a positive attitude in life will accomplish so much more," he said. "We are reminded no matter what quarter it is, always pick yourself up and keep fighting."

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