COACH KNOWS LIFE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WINNING - Retired Bucky Stewart Makes Comeback

(08/25/2001)

Reprint from the Wheeling News-Register

Whether Bucky Stewart wins another game or not is unimportant.

Stewart, naturally would like to win many more games as the football coach at Calhoun High school, but, in the big picture he already is a winner.

The fact he is coaching is testimony to that.

Heilman "Bucky" Stewart, a man who loves coaching and calls football season "my vacation," left the coaching profession a couple of years ago because, he says, he had no energy.

"I thought that was the way I was going to feel the rest of my life that coaching was not something I could do," he said. "So I quit."

He walked away from a good situation as head football coach at Woodford County (Kentucky) High School, where he had led his team to state playoffs every year except one. He retired to Braxton County.

It turns out that Stewart had good reason to feel like he had no energy. After all he had suffered a lightning strike, a heart attack and bypass surgery.

"It all started when I was struck by lightning, Actually, I was only indirectly struck by lightning and I really didn't think much about it at the time," he said.

Instead he went on coaching, but felt a few twinges now and then. He did not think much about them since he was in shape and regularly worked out.

But following a snow one winter day, he started thinking about it a lot.

"I went out and shoveled snow in the morning and felt fine," he said. "I went back out and shoveled more snow in the evening and then it hit."

He did not feel he could be having a heart attack because he was, as he said, in good shape. But he was having a heart attack and it was not of the garden-variety kind either. It seems the lightning strike had damaged the veins and arteries on one side of his heart. He would have to have a bypass.

"They took veins out of my forearm and used them," he said.

He was in such good physical condition that the surgeons performing the bypass surgery did not crack his chest open from the front opting instead to enter from the side.

Yet for all his good physical conditioning, he did not feel much like coaching or anything else for that matter.

"I love coaching, but it was a hard thing for me to do," he said. " I had a great group of parents and they helped me all they could. But it was tough."

Stewart said the parents of a couple of his wrestlers helped him out.

"They knew I had a hard time yelling instructions at the wrestlers, so they sat behind me and told me to tell them what I wanted to say and they would yell it for me," he said.

"So I'd sit there and say 'takedown' and they would yell 'takedown' to the wrestlers. They were great, but it was tough."

It got so tough that Stewart did not even go to spring football practice because he was so tired.

"Hazel (his wife) and I talked it over and decided to quit," he said. "On June 12, I turned in my resignation. On June 15, I was back in West Virginia."

He was "retired" in Braxton County when he decided to become a volunteer coach at Braxton County High School.

"I regained my energy there," he said.

It was at this time that Calhoun County Athletic Director Roger Propst started asking Stewart if he would like to give coaching one more shot.

"Roger asked me a few times and Hazel and I talked it over. She told me that I had been in training my whole life for this job and that I was 58 years old and if that's what I wanted, that's what I should do," he said. "So I did."

Stewart's Red Devil's posted a 3-7 record last year. He is hoping for improvement this season. But the improvement he seeks is for the team since Stewart knows there are much more important things in life than football wins and losses.


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