By KYLE LOVERN
MATEWAN – The Mingo County area, especially the Matewan and Mingo Central football teams, is mourning the passing of assistant football coach John Fry.
Fry apparently died from complications of surgery. He had gone to a local hospital after feeling ill on Wednesday afternoon. He had to have emergency surgery early Thursday morning.
Fry, only 27, was loved by the community, and his passing was a shock when word spread around the area.
Fry taught at Gilbert Middle School last year and had been an assistant coach for Yogi Kinder at both Matewan and Mingo Central. He had played for Kinder at Matewan, graduating in 2003.
Head coach Yogi Kinder was heartbroken. “Johnny was one of a kind. He’s been around me since he was about 3-years old. He was a water boy for me at Matewan and always on the sidelines.”
Fry played middle school and high school football for the Tigers. He went on to become Kinder’s assistant coach. “He was a special little guy. No one ever had a bad word to say about him. He had good morals. I am so sorry for his family.”
“The kids loved him and he could relate to them, especially the young ones,” Kinder added. “Johnny was always positive and he was excited about this season.”
Fry had been working with the team during the 3-week summer practice session this week.
“I am heartbroken today. We all have shed a few tears,” said Joe Kinzer, a local radio broadcaster. “He loved coaching the game and being around the kids. Last year when my son Jaxon was in the NICU in Lexington - I really didn’t want to leave my family behind to broadcast a ballgame. John would call me on my cell phone and say two days till game day Big Joe.”
Kinzer said that Fry would help take his mind off the worries he had about his newborn son.
“This little guy had more heart than I think I have ever seen and probably won’t see again for a while,” said Matewan Mayor Shelia Kessler. “I lost a great friend in John Fry. Such a loss for the community and everyone that knew him. My heart is broken, especially for his family.”
“He inspired me as a coach. His words will stay with me my whole life. He will be missed,” said Joe May, who will be a senior this season for the Miners.
Tim Dixon, a longtime friend and Miners booster, remembers a quote Fry used while inspiring his defense, “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about busting them in the mouth.” This showed his competitive drive.
“He was going to run the defense for me in the senior bowl. I played for him and coached with him - I loved that man, he was great,” said Joey Fields, also an assistant coach for MCHS. Fields is coaching the W.Va. squad in the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl in July. Fry had coached in this game and was going to assist Fields this year.
Former Matewan teammate Todd Adkins had this to say about his friend. “I didn’t get to see John and talk with him as much as I would’ve liked to lately. Everybody gets busy, has their own lives - it makes it hard sometimes, but I’ll never forget the times I did share with him. He was one of the best all-around guys I’ve ever met and he was more than just a lifelong friend, he was like a brother to me. I love him and can’t begin to describe how much I miss him right now!”
“As good a coach as he was, he was a 10 times better person,” said longtime Matewan fan Greg Adkins.
“John Fry was one of Matewan’s finest young men. He always was a friend to everyone. His dream from a very young age was to coach the Tigers. He was such a role model for our area youth. In a day and age where role models are few and far between, he truly lived up to the goals he set for himself. We are all blessed to have known this young man,” said Donna Blackburn Paterino.
“John was a dear friend. I will always remember him as my student, friend and co-worker. He was loved by all who knew him. He had a true love for kids and sports,” said fellow teacher Randall Crum.
Coach Kinder concluded, “Anyone that didn’t know him missed out on a good one. He was special.”
Fry was just recently married and leaves behind a wife Leigh Ann Pollis-Fry and his mother Barbara Fry.
He was love and respected by all that knew him and will be greatly missed.