Coach John J. Stephens, 78, of Blackshear, passed away late Saturday night, March 14, 2020, at the Wayne Memorial Hospital in Jesup, following an extended illness.
His parents were the late Mark and Marie Stephens of Adel.
He played football and sang in the Waycross schools until 1958 when he moved with his family to Savannah, where he played football and sang, graduating in 1960 from Jenkins High School Following that, he received a voice scholarship to Brewton Parker College, where he was elected “freshman favorite.” From there, he earned a football scholarship to Troy University in Troy, AL. He graduated with a bachelor of science in education in English and taught and coached at Ariton High in Ariton, AL, until moving to Georgia.
He served a coaching and teaching appointment at Coffee High in Douglas before meeting his wife-to-be, Elaine Thomas of Waycross. After marriage, they both taught English and coached at Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Claxton High School, Appling County High School in Baxley, Perry High School and Pierce County High School, when he decided to retire. He came out of retirement to coach and teach at Bacon County High School in Alma and then accepted an offer at Ware County High School after which he retired. He coached wrestling and football while his wife coached the cheerleaders.
Survivors include his wife, Elaine; daughter, Katie Stephens Ward and husband Michael, Jesup; son, Mark Stephens and wife Sarah, Glennville; four grandchildren, Carsyn Ward and Collyn Ward, both of Jesup and Laney Stephens and Stone Stephens, both of Glennville; sister, Mary Stephens Hodges, Rincon; niece and nephews, Christan Hodges Bush (Pete), Blackshear, Howard Hodges (Laura) and Josh Hodges (Amber), all of Rincon; one cousin, Charles Zeigler, Columbia, SC; special friends, including his teammates from Troy, Laurie Calvin, Sandy Haney, Susan Snead, Wally and Julia Nell Shaw, Perry, Debbie Stinchcomb and Kathy and Ed Deen, all of Baxley and his fellow coaches with whom he maintained close contact and who remain dear to his family.
Following his marriage, he and his wife attended Georgia Southern University, where he earned a master’s degree in administration.
Blessed with amazing musical talent, he served as choir director in numerous churches from Claxton, Baxley, Perry and Waycross. Locally, he served at Blackshear First United Methodist, Hebardville Baptist and then Hoboken Baptist, where he retired this year.
He loved his God, family, choir members, students and players.
Among his hobbies were flowers and his greenhouse, old cars and gospel music. For many years, he, his wife and sister sang in a gospel trio. He especially loved staying in touch with former students and athletes.
Among his numerous honors are Who’s Who in Georgia, yearbook dedications, Governor’s Proclamation for outstanding coaching success, numerous Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year titles both in football and wrestling, Touchdown Club of Atlanta Coach of the Year, Chaplain’s Leadership Award and Christian Citizen of the Year.
A celebration of life will be held in April with a date and time to be determined.
Memorialization is by cremation.
The decision was made to postpone memorial plans due to the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the advice of health care professionals, the advisement against large gatherings of 50 or more people, and with respect for the health of the community and family.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations made to Hoboken Baptist Church, 4714 W Main St E, Hoboken, GA 31542.
Sympathy may be expressed by signing online at www.hartfh.com.
Hart Funeral Home of Blackshear is in charge of arrangements.