Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

October 29, 2012

FAREWELL TO 'COACH'

Over 700 pay last respects to Stacy Hunter

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — It was a sobering thought – one that really had just started to sink in to many of the funeral audience members.

It was equally evident on the faces of the funeral speakers, each trying to wrap their minds around the cold, cruel fact.

Stacy DeWayne Hunter is dead.

Hunter's cousin, Antonio Holman, soberly held up a photo of Hunter for the audience. He said the words no one wanted to hear.

"Stacy ain't here – he can't help us no more," Holman said. "His watch is over."

Hunter was killed at the night club on North Jackson Street that bears his name, shot to death early Saturday morning, allegedly by a distant relative, Jimmy Deshawn Mosley.

Mosley, 24, turned himself into police in connection with the crime hours later. He remains in county custody in lieu of $250,000 bail, facing capital murder charges.

Holman was one of many who spoke Friday of Hunter's life and also one of the many who dearly loved and respected the code inspection officer. Many more than the 700 people allowed by seating were there during the Friday morning funeral at Central Baptist Church, 1909 East Rusk. Interment followed at Pine Grove Cemetery after the ceremony.

These were  so many of them at the funeral: friends and family from all walks of life who fought the pouring rain to get a seat.

Advancing into the sanctuary in droves, they quickly filled the balcony, the main room, the aisles and even portions of the foyer.

One usher's prophetic voice as they entered: "Soon there will be no more room."

Meanwhile, those who spoke of Hunter in front of the audience remembered how he would never give up and would never let others give up on themselves.

There is a lot to know about Hunter. Some didn't, for instance,  know he signed a contract as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles while attending attended Cisco Junior College and Northeastern State University.

The 43-year-old  was a 1987 graduate of Jacksonville High School, a married father of three, and a member of Carters Chapel Baptist Church.   

He was employed with the city for 20 years, starting in sanitation and working up to recreation superintendent and eventually to code enforcement officer.

In 2002, Hunter started coaching football and basketball. As a coach, he fast became a father figure to many boys and girls.

An active coach until his death, Hunter dedicated countless hours to coaching youth football and basketball – many years in total.

He was coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a Tri-County Youth Football team. Derrick Donnell, vice president of the Jackson Jaguars, said Hunter coached for 10 years.

The team's next game will be bittersweet, Donnell said.

"Next Saturday, Nov. 3, is the team's first game without coach Stacy," he said.

Right now, the player of this age group who had been coached by Stacy the longest, four years, is Pee Wee Fuller, 12.

Pee Wee and his many members all attended Friday's funeral wearing their team jerseys, nearly each of them bearing a button photo of Hunter.

Pee Wee said it's hard to imagine a world without Hunter.

"It just doesn't feel right," the youngster said. "I'm used to seeing the coach right there on the sidelines."

Hunter, who was famous for his "Million Dollar Smile" and "Heart of Gold," had his own detail shop and night club, (he was fatally shot there) where he was often known to hire people to help get them back on their feet.

This is all something the members of his family, especially his wife, Julie, and three daughters, Jessica, Jennifer and Jordan Hunter, know very well.

 Hunter was remembered for his power and the way he commanded the respect of others.

"If you remember one thing about Stacy, remember that he taught you to be a leader, not a follower," said Dewayne Hollis.

The Rev. Michael Hollie of Greater Mount Horeb Baptist Church, urged the audience to follow Hunter's example to "stand up against that which is not right."

During the ceremony he laid hands on and blessed Brenda Holman, who is Hunter's aunt.

Veronica Hunter, the victim's sister, talked to the spirit of her brother during a prayer said at the funeral service.   

"Your life is my legacy," she said. "I'll do my best to carry it on."

Others had many of their own stories about Coach Hunter.  

One woman recalled the time her son called her from college asking her to come home because he didn't think he could hack the transition from high school football to college ball.

The woman quickly dialed Hunter's sister Veronica, who indicated she would communicate the message to her  brother.

The next time the woman spoke to her son, he had changed his mind about coming home.

"Momma, why did you have to call and tell Coach Stacy? Now I can't come home," he said.