Blog Contest 3rd Place Winner: Ed Thomas: The Tragic Death of a Small Town Hero

The following blog post finished 3rd in our recent contest for a free autographed copy of our Heroes book.  Each week we will post another hero profile in the top 5.  Congratulations to all five of these excellent entries.  — Scott Allison and George Goethals

ed-thomas-1.jpgBy Bridget Fischer

Heroes are people who do not rest on their laurels.  They continue to improve society by doing everything in their power to make a positive difference.  This is exactly how high school football coach Ed Thomas lived his life.

Ed Thomas coached at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg, Iowa.  He held that position for thirty-seven years and won a total of 292 games. He also led his team to two state championship titles and coached four young men who currently play in the NFL.  In 2005, the NFL named him High School Coach of the Year.

These accomplishments alone are very impressive and prove Thomas' outstanding ability to work with young adults. But he was more than just a football coach.  He not only taught his players how to perfect their football skills, he also guided his players to be good people in all aspects of life. His top three priorities were family, faith, and A-P High School football. Thomas was a town leader and is known for having turned generations of Parkersburg boys into men. He lived a life of pure intentions and true virtuous character, and he taught these ideals to his players.

His compassion for the students and the community became most evident in May of 2008 when a tornado devastated Parkersburg. Many homes and buildings were destroyed, including the athletic facilities at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. Ed Thomas rallied his team and the community to Ed Thomastake it upon themselves to fix the stadium and field before opening day in September. Inspired by his enthusiasm and support, the football stadium was restored in time for the home opener. He had truly become a source of hope and leadership.

In June of 2009 Coach Thomas was running a summer program to help keep his team in shape. On the morning of June 24th, while the team was working out, Mark Becker, a former player of Thomas', walked into the locker room and shot Ed Thomas multiple times, killing him instantly. Becker suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.  The team, the school, and the community were in shock.

The loss of Ed Thomas was especially devastating and unbelievable to his family and players. The impact he had on the community extended far beyond the football field. A powerful positive force that had graced the community for so long disappeared with no warning or reason.

The strong family values Thomas had passed down to his sons shined through during the aftermath of his death.  Just hours after the shooting, his son Aaron asked members of the community to pray for and support the Becker family. The Thomas family instantly reached out to the family of the man who had killed their husband and father, revealing the overwhelming power of forgiveness. The Beckers, along with the entire community, were astounded at the Thomas' family's compassion.  In July of 2010 the Thomas family received the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the ESPYS, honoring Ed's influence during his career as a football coach as well as their ability to forgive under the most difficult of circumstances.

Ed Thomas is a hero not only by excelling in his profession as a football coach but by also going beyond the call of duty and touching his players' lives in a way they will never forget.

4 thoughts on “Blog Contest 3rd Place Winner: Ed Thomas: The Tragic Death of a Small Town Hero

  1. That’s unbelievably sad. 🙁 Death can come to any of us at any time, but it breaks the heart to see someone who gave so much to his community come to such a violent end. But this terrible event proves what a great influence this man had– it was truly heroic of his son to reach out the family of his father’s killer. It’s people like this that cause us to have hope for a better future.

  2. I remember when this tragic event occurred and after learning more, it was straight shocking. Thomas was much more than a coach in a society that loves football as much as it does. His role in society was unbelievably significant and the fact that one of his former players took his life is horrid. Although terribly tragic, Thomas has left a huge impact on all societies, especially after his passing.

  3. Thomas is one of those coaches you want your kids playing for. Someone who loves the game but loves the kids and community more. I know from experience of coach who do both of those and have has much more success from them then any other coach!

  4. It shows how much of an impact Ed Thomas had on his community and family because it is unbelieveable the way his family reached out to the Becker family. It is refreshing to hear about a coach who cares more about his kids and who they are as individuals because so many coaches are focused on one aspect of football and that is winning. It is a tragic loss, but he won’t be forgotten in that community.

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