Thousands mourn football coach
Family, friends and former players packed into a church, community center and parking lot for the funeral for Ed Thomas, the 58-year-old longtime coach at Aplington-Parkersburg High School who was gunned down Wednesday in the school weight room.
The number of mourners easily topped the roughly 1,800-person population of Parkersburg as people filled First Congregational Church, watched a broadcast of the funeral in the community center and spilled into a parking lot to listen to the service.
In a transcript of an audio recording of the service, Al Kerns, a longtime assistant coach, described the relationship Thomas had with members of the community.
“He only saw the best in all of us,” he said. “He never said no when others asked of him, so other people could never say no to him.”
In May 2008, after Parkersburg was struck by a tornado that wiped out about one-third of the town and killed six people, Ed Thomas was a key leader in pushing for the recovery of the community about 80 miles northeast of Des Moines.
Thomas was a head coach for 37 seasons—including 34 at Aplington-Parkersburg.
He coached a number of players who went on to the NFL, including Green Bay Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman, Jacksonville Jaguars center Brad Meester, Detroit Lions defensive end Jared DeVries and Denver Broncos center Casey Wiegmann. All four served as pallbearers.
Authorities have charged Mark Becker, a 24-year-old former player at Aplington-Parkersburg, with first-degree murder. He remained in the Cerro Gordo County jail on a $1 million bond.