By Tim Chambers
This summer had been a special season for Gary Woodard. His Marlins Little League team did the unthinkable by finishing undefeated with a 15-0 record.
They won the league championship in addition to the season ending tournament. Gary was selected to coach the 11-12-year-old All-Star team with many of his players on the roster.
I remember the smile on his face as he walked off the field after defeating the Dodgers in their final game. Then I recalled the words that he said to me.
“I am blessed Tim,” he would tell me. “I’m going to remember this for a long time.”
Little did Gary know that his time remaining on earth would be short. Yet he lived each second to the fullest.
He was all smiles after giving the powerhouse Johnson City American All-Stars fits for five innings with Zack Parsons on the mound. He was gracious despite taking the loss after Parsons ran out of pitches.
Still he was blessed and all smiles after the game.
It’s hard to describe the impact that Coach Gary had on the lives of kids in Johnson County. The world’s biggest tape measure couldn’t size it up.
He was a role model to all those who played for him. He was a godly and good family man to his wife, Lisa, and children, Gary Jr., Adrian and Anthony.
To others like me he was the dearest friend. I’ll always cherish this summer when our friendship reached another level.
Gary’s gifts to his community were great. There were many that people never knew about.
He spent countless hours wiring the new field house for Johnson County High School at no charge. Many of his former and current players would be using the facility.
It was his way of giving back something to all the kids he loved.
Gary’s love went far beyond athletics.
He always stressed the value of family.
He and wife Lisa had a wonderful marriage. He was the ideal role model for his children, brothers and sisters.
But again the world’s largest tape measure couldn’t size up what he meant to people.
That was evident by the long line that wrapped around the funeral home and outside the door to the parking lot on Sunday. Chairs had to be brought in to seat people and some had to stand on the outside.
I didn’t hear anybody complain. Gary Woodard had taught them well. We were blessed just to be there.
The two weeks after his banner season would go by fast. It was too fast for those of us who remain. Yet Gary made the most of it.
He had volunteered to help build a small kitchen at the church where I pastor in Elizabethton. I felt led to serve breakfast during the week to the needy in our community. Gary was all about helping others even if it was 30 miles away. He said my story touched him.
But God had different plans.
No story of mine would ever touch the lives that Gary Woodard touched. Johnson County lost a fine man. Paradise gained another angel.
We also had dinner plans for Friday with our families but that got put on hold too. Little did I know that Gary’s invitation would be to God’s Great Banquet. I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy.
How fitting it would be to name something in Gary’s honor. The Little League Field at Cunningham Park is a suggestion.
Each of us would be blessed every time we walked in just like Gary Woodard was.
“Count your many blessings” for those of us who knew him.