Posted: January 23, 2008 in Family and Friends
Jon Coleman

Jon was built to be a fullback, or a wrestler. Maybe even a boxer, but not a basketball player. By basketball standards, he was short. By any standards, he was thick and strong.

I was 21 years old, fresh out of the University of Arkansas, and too young to be coaching high school basketball, but there I was in August of 1992, holding my first practices, and checking out my team. Jon was 17 years old, one of four seniors I would eventually start that year, alongside his classmates, Rusty, Daniel, Jeremy, and a talented junior named Rob.

Jon had the odd mixture of playfulness and intensity that made him a team favorite – and a scourge to the opposition. If there was ever a star opponent that needed to be bothered endlessly – and there often was – I would sic Jon Coleman on him. Jon relished those opportunities.

If our school was big enough for a football team, or in those parts of the country where wrestling is the dominant sport, he would have been a star. We just offered basketball and track, so Jon made his way to the starting five through hard work and determination, and found a place in track throwing the shotput and running relays.

Jon graduated high school and moved on to my alma mater, the University of Arkansas. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and then law school to follow in the footsteps of his father. He returned to Jonesboro to practice, and though I lost touch with him completely, I can imagine he became one heck of a lawyer. I can picture his bulldog intensity, along with his mischievous grin, endearing himself to clients, and frustrating the stew out his adversaries.

I called my mom yesterday, and she told me the news. Jon died Sunday morning at his home of natural causes. He was 32 years old.

In less than an hour, visitation will begin at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I am five-hundred miles away, but my heart is there with the mourners. Tomorrow morning, Jimmy Adcox will deliver a tender eulogy I’m sure, but I will be at work in Ocean Springs. I have to attempt my bit of dealing with the news by typing out words on a keyboard tonight.

Jon’s father preceded him in death, so the burden lies heavily on his mother, Jan, and his younger brother, Kyle. I cannot imagine how they feel tonight. I left my message on the guestbook at the funeral home, and already there are seven pages filled with condolences. I hope those help in some small way.

Of the fourteen or fifteen guys I handed Falcon basketball uniforms back in 1992, two of them are gone now: Jarrod left us at 19, and now Jon at 32. Death is sobering, and as the years pass, it grows more sobering still. We posed for a team picture back then, and two of those faces have faded away now. Over time, one at a time, we’ll all have our turn.

You don’t know what you have in a moment of time. The flash blinds us, the memory is secured, but you just don’t know that this moment will never be replaced. It is an irredeemable treasure.

I shared part of one year with Jon Coleman, and I hadn’t seen him in close to fifteen years, but all of a sudden I miss him tonight.

I hope he knows now, if not before, just how many lives he touched along the way.

  1. Jeremy Holder says:

    Hi coach, been reading the blog for several months now and missed it alot during your “study break”. (congrats btw) I just returned home from visitation with a heavy heart. Jon obviously touched the lives of many people. We arived at 6 and finally made it to Mrs. Jan at 8:30. My thoughts and prayers go out to this family during this difficult time.

  2. Al Sturgeon says:

    Jeremy Holder. I read your comment just before I took my daughter to school this morning, and of course, on the way I had to tell her all about Jeremy Holder – in particular his heroic game in the district tournament his senior year. She loves those stories, and I love telling that one specifically.

    It is so good to hear from you, but such a sad reason for us to communicate. Jon was something else, wasn’t he? I just had a short time with him. I know you have many rich memories. I pray that Mrs. Jan and Kyle and everyone makes it through today’s funeral, but I know there are many more difficult days ahead.

    Please stay in touch, Jeremy. That my youngest daughter has never met you is a travesty, one maybe we can correct this summer before I take off to law school somewhere.

  3. Jeremy Holder says:

    I would love to catch up with you sometime in the near future. I’ve been thinking about your team photo comment all day today. All those teamates were friends, but a few were very close friends at that time. Today I consider myself lucky to have called both Jared and Jon “close friends”. And today, I am much more thankful for those people who played a role in my life.

  4. Al Sturgeon says:

    I had to go find my yearbook from that year. I think the team picture stood out in my mind because I pictured myself standing next to Jon, which when I found the picture, was true. Fourteen guys on the team, plus me. Two have moved on, and I know you were very close to both.

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