John Howell Sr. editorial 7/22/2014

‘Coach’ ran deep among us, leaving wonderful memories

There were so many Lightsey brothers who grew up in Batesville that for years everybody went to school with at least one.

Then the youngest Lightsey brother came along and extended the connection to his family for even more generations, returning after his 1970 SP graduation and college for a long coaching career at Batesville Junior High.

For most of a century, there has been a Lightsey influence among us. Their mother and dad, Margie and Bufkin, worked school concession stands and football sidelines year after year, dating back before any of us can remember. Sons excelled in athletics, band and in enriching our lives. 

Middle brother Dennis still mans those sidelines during South Panola games. Next-to-youngest Jerry has borne the responsibility of coordinating and directing the annual Lions Club Christmas Parade for more years than he likes to be reminded of. 

But it is the youngest who has left us. Robert Lightsey died Friday after a battle with leukemia that many became aware of on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 when Batesville formed its first “Flash Mob.” As word spread lightning fast over social media about Coach’s illness and that he would be leaving his home for treatment that day, the mob formed — friends, present and former co-workers, classmates and others, some holding signs hastily handmade, stating simply “We Love You” — gathering along Turtle Creek Drive and Quail Run Road to wave and show support.

Coach’s illness and treatment became a phenomenon of social media like no local person or subject we had seen before. 

His wife, Carol Anne, faithfully posted on Facebook detailed accounts almost daily.

Each began, “About Robert.” For many it was a report anxiously sought the first thing each morning. Reading about his determination to withstand the treatments and recover motivated us to encourage him. The social media momentum grew when the community rallied at news that it would take 100 days to determine the success of Robert’s stem cell transplant.

Friends, businesses, family members clubs, school groups, neighborhoods kept count, from one to 100, by posting photos on Facebook that showed the number of the day of the treatment’s progression.

Facebook became the central clearinghouse for prayers and expressions of love from near and far. We were amazed at the resilience, both of the patient and his tireless caregiver.

Then we took solace with her when last Friday’s post read: “Not my will but Thine be done.”

The Facebook postings left us with something else to be encouraged about. As we viewed photos of Coach with his family, especially his grandchildren, we realized that he is yet among us in a wonderful progeny that will always keep his memory alive.

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