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Former West Virginia Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart was honored Thursday in Morgantown, as hundreds made their way through the Morgantown Event Center during a seven-hour viewing. A private Mass will also be held Friday morning at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church before a burial ceremony in his nearby hometown of New Martinsville.
Stewart died at the age of 59 after suffering a heart attack while playing golf on Monday. He was taken to a nearby hospital and announced as having passed very shortly afterward.
From the AP report, one of many who've shared warm memories of Stewart since his passing:
Blake Tasker, 33, a former graduate assistant who worked under Stewart during the 2010 season, called him "genuine'' and the kind of man every father hopes his daughter will date and marry. Stewart was dedicated to his wife, Karen, and their only child, Blaine, and never missed one of his son's football games.
"Even in the middle of seasons, he would go and watch Blaine play. He would take time and get out of the office to go see his son,'' said Tasker, adding his former boss set an example for his players in life.
Memorial arrangements are now in place for former West Virginia Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart, who passed away Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack while playing golf.
On Thursday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m ET., a public memorial will be held at Morgantown's Waterfront Events Center, followed by a private Mass on Friday morning at St. Francis DeSales Church, also in Morgantown. Stewart's body will be buried in New Martinsville, his hometown.
Since his passing, Stewart has been remembered by state dignitaries and by WVU fans, along with dozens of former players and coaches and media members, as a kind coach and devoted family man. He took over a Mountaineers program that had just been left by its homegrown star and led it to a Fiesta Bowl upset victory, eventually putting up a 28-12 record in Morgantown.
The world of college football was stunned on Monday with the news that former West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bill Stewart had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 59.
There has been a big outpouring of support and condolences, with many mourning the loss of Stewart on Twitter and elsewhere online.
The State Journal has a collection of comments from Stewart's peers, including this from former WVU coach Don Nehlen:
"I hired Bill in my last year when I was close to retiring. Bill was such a great Mountaineer and a great addition to our staff. It was a terrific hire -- he did a great job not only for me, but for Rich and as a head coach. Bill was such a great husband and a great father. Bill Stewart was a great Mountaineer. My heart goes out to Karen and Blaine."
The Pittsburgh Steelers released the following statement regarding Stewart:
We are saddened by the passing of Coach Stew. He was a great coach and a tremendous person. We not only lost a good football person, we lost an even better family man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Karen and his son Blaine.
Here is just a sampling of sentiment from Twitter:
Shocked to hear the news abt former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart..Had the pleasure of meeting his family & am keeping them in my prayers— Erin Andrews (@ErinAndrews) May 21, 2012
From all @CollegeGameDay crew -condolences to family and loved ones of Bill Stewart. We are stunned and saddened to learn of his death.— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) May 21, 2012
Prayers for Bill Stewart's family. Good man. would insist in meetings that we try some pepperoni rolls and hot dogs he supplied. God bless— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) May 21, 2012
Thoughts and prayers to Bill Stewart and West Virginia family. Classy and Caring individual.— Skip Holtz (@CoachHoltzUSF) May 21, 2012
Two weeks ago tonight Bill Stewart texted me this message:F R O G Forever ... Rely ... On ... GodHe is always with you.#WVU— TonyCaridi (@TonyCaridi) May 22, 2012
Brett McMurphy at CBS Sports has also written a lovely piece about Stewart, so please go read that if you haven't already. Hoppy Kercheval of the Metro News also has written a great look back at the coach.
And finally, via Rivals.com, is this pre-game speech by Stewart prior to WVU's upset win in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
Despite leading West Virginia to a stirring win over Oklahoma in a Fiesta Bowl that still counts among the Mountaineers' finest moments, Bill Stewart was not exactly a beloved figure during his tenure on the sidelines in Morgantown. His death on Monday has given the West Virginia fans at The Smoking Musket, SB Nation's Mountaineers blog, a chance to reflect on his legacy.
The news of his passing today leaves me sad, humbled, and filled with regret. He was a lot more than a football coach. He was loyal to his God and family first. He was a father and a husband and probably the only college football coach in America with the balls to tell you. As cliche as it may sound, he wore that on his sleeve. Although that part of the man was sometimes used as a punchline, the wisdom of his words have never been more true than today.
The West Virginia Mountaineers family is still reeling from the death of former coach Bill Stewart, who died of an apparent heart attack Monday afternoon. Those who knew Stewart are making their condolences public.
West Virginia University president Jim Clements, who came to WVU in 2009, was one of the first to comment on Stewart:
"Mountaineer nation is truly saddened today to learn of the untimely passing of Coach Bill Stewart. Our hearts go out to the Stewart family and Bill's many friends. He was a compassionate, energetic, and kind person. He loved his family dearly and was extremely community-oriented and very giving of his time. He will be greatly missed."
Stewart has also been hailed by WVU athletic director Oliver Luck:
"Coach Stewart was a rock-solid West Virginian and a true Mountaineer. His enthusiasm and passion for his state’s flagship University was infectious. We join all Mountaineers in mourning his passing."
West Virginia's governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, praised Stewart for bringing "new found pride" to the state as the Mountaineers' head man.
Former West Virginia Mountaineers football coach Bill Stewart has died, West Virginia University announced in a brief release Monday afternoon that read simply, "Former West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart has died this afternoon from an apparent heart attack. No further details are available at this time."
Stewart reportedly suffered a heart attack while playing golf, after which he was reportedly rushed to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment. He was 59 years old.
Stewart had lost his job at WVU last year during a complicated incident involving offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen. He had a 28-12 record at West Virginia, including a 2008 Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma upon taking over for Rich Rodriguez, who'd left for Michigan.
Previously, Stewart had coached at WVU since 2000 as an assistant, with stints in the CFL, North Carolina and Air Force among his stops along the way.
Here was Stewart in one of his greatest and most treasured moments, preparing his team for that Fiesta Bowl victory, perhaps the biggest win in school history: