Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas was shot to death early this morning. The shooting happened in the team’s weight-training room. Aplington-Parkersburg superintendent Jon Thompson describes the coach as a pillar of the community.
"He was a strong man, he stood for so many things, and he has been quite an icon for us for a number of years," Thompson says. And he says Thomas has been the face of the community since the tornado hit last year.
High school principal Dave Meyer says the entire community is numb. Meyer says hundreds of students gathered outside the elementary building, along with former students and athletes and all are in shock. Meyer says he was notified moments after the shooting.
Meyer says he got a call from the custodian and came over and had to take care of kids. He says by the time he got into the building Thomas was laying on the floor, and he calls it a "horrible situation" for the kids to go through.
Ed Thomas was popular with his colleagues. Jim Dunne is the head coach at Grinnell High School and served with Thomas on the board of directors of the Iowa Coaches Association. Dunne says it’s a terrible tragedy for the family and the community of Parkersburg and the whole state of Iowa.
Dunne says Thomas was admired for the way he coached as he cared a great deal about kids and the fraternity of coaches. He says Thomas as always willing to give and come and hold demonstrations.
Thomas attended William Penn College. Grinnell city councilman Larry Wilson was his roommate for three years. Wilson says, "Trying to make any kind of sense of this, it just ain’t gonna happen. Because there absolutely wasn’t any better man that I have ever met."
Wilson says Thomas was much more than just a football coach, he was a great educator and he says he’s sure just as good a father and husband as there ever would be. Thomas attracted national recognition after a tornado devastated the town in May of 2008. The rebuilt football stadium is named in his honor.
Bud Legg of the Iowa High School Athletic Association says Thomas was a rock of the community in helping rebuild. He met Thomas at his first coaching stop at Northeast Hamilton High School and says he was always friendly and courteous.
Legg says that carried over to the positive manner in which he treated people and the way they treated him. Legg says Thomas "embodied everything that good teachers and good coaches should be about."
Legg says Thomas was beloved by his peers, and never put himself above others and never above his team other than to lead them onto the field.
People across the state from football coaches to politicians reacted to Thomas’ death. See those reactions at the Radio Iowa Blog .
(Also contributing to this story are: Bob Fisher KRIB Mason City, John Martenson KGRN Grinnell, Darin Svenson KDEC Decorah)