Family, friends and others gather in Parkersburg today to honor slain Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas. Thousands of mourners filled the First Congregational Church, the local V.F.W. hall and parking lot to honor the man who was a teacher and coach for 37 years.
Among those attending the 90-minute service where Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, U.N.I football coach Mark Farley, and former I.S.U. and Iowa assistant football coach Bobby Elliot. Several players from area football teams also turned out wearing their game jerseys.
Pall bearers at today’s funeral included four former Aplington-Perkersburg players who are now on N.F.L. teams. They are: Aaron Kampman (Green Bay Packers), Jared DeVries (Detroit Lions), Casey Wiegmann (Denver Bronocs) and Brad Meester (Jacksonville Jaguars).
The service was both somber and filled with laughter. Those who attended the funeral formed a block long line on both sides of the street as the hearse took the body of the coach to his final resting place at the Oak Hill Cemetery. West Des Dowling coach Andy Pollak (Pawl-ick) is best friends with one of Thomas’ sons and says he got to see the family side of Thomas.
"Before getting into high school in Parkersburg, you always saw coach Thomas as this larger than life figure in Parkersburg. Everybody saw him as the football coach. I got to see him as a father , as a husband, he was a man who was very emotional, he would tell you what he was thinking, he felt everything," Pollack says.
The death of Thomas came just over one year after a tornado devastated Parkersburg. Pollack says his hometown is resilient. Pollack says he has talked with his wife about how easy they had it growing up in Parkersburg, as everything seemed like the perfect community in their eyes. He says the things that have happened in the last 13 months have been very difficult, but he says "there’s too many stubborn people in this town to let this stuff get them down."
Thomas was shot to death last Wednesday and a former player, 24-year-old Mark Becker, is charged with first-degree murder in his death.
Recording devices were not allowed at the funeral, but a media transcript of the service is available at the link below.