Today marks the fifth anniversary of the death of former Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas, who was shot and killed just 13 months after helping lead his community through the aftermath of a devastating tornado.
Thomas’ son, Aaron, now spends part of his time leading the foundation that helps keep his father’s memory alive. “It took us a little while to get started and figure out what we were going to do with the foundation, what’s going to be our focus area, who is it we want to impact or reach, what kind of activities are we going to do, how are we going to raise funds,” Thomas says. “Five years in we finally feel like we do have a good feel for what we’re doing. So, from that standpoint, we are excited about where we are at.”
One of the enduring images from the day Ed Thomas was killed is of Aaron speaking at a news conference at the Aplington-Parkersburg Elementary School. He says now that the reality of the situation had not yet hit him. “Nothing has sunk in as to what has actually happened,” Thomas says. He says from the time he was in third grade he wanted to be a teacher and be like his day and he says that came out in the news conference where he spoke about his dad.
While Thomas’ own children were very young when their grandfather was killed, Aaron says there are certain things he wants to ensure they remember. “I want them to understand that their grandpa was a man of faith, he had an impact, he did things the right way, and he cared for people,” Thomas says. “I think when you talk about those things, that’s who my dad was and the passion he had for young people and for coaching football.”
Thomas says that as more time passes, he’s had to adjust the way he talks about his father, even within the walls of Aplington-Parkersburg High School. All the kids who were gonna be freshman, they will now be sophomores in college, so his dad wouldn’t have taught any of the kids in the school now. Thomas says the direct impact from those who knew his dad and were taught by him isn’t there, and he says they have to look at how they explain who Ed Thomas was to the new kids.
Aaron Thomas took over his father’s duties as A-P’s activities director, and next year he will transition into a new role as the school’s principal. You can learn more about the Ed Thomas Family Foundation by going online to www.EdThomasFamilyFoundation.org.
By Jesse Gavin, KCNZ, Cedar Falls