Long­time Jack­sonville teacher, coach to re­tire

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THREE RIVERS EDITION - BY MARK BUF­FALO Staff Writer

JACK­SONVILLE — Af­ter a 36-year ca­reer in ed­u­ca­tion, long­time coach and teacher Jerry Wil­son will re­tire at the end of the school year.

Wil­son, 58, has worked at Jack­sonville High School for the past 35 years af­ter start­ing his coach­ing ca­reer at Oak Grove High School.

“It’s a good time for me to stop and smell the roses while I can still smell them,” Wil­son said. “I lost a real close friend ear­lier this year. It just shows you that you don’t know what to­mor­row might bring.”

Dur­ing his ca­reer, Wil­son has coached a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing foot­ball, bas­ket­ball, base­ball, ten­nis and track. For about five sea­sons, he was the head boys bas­ket­ball coach, while also serv­ing as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the foot­ball team. Wil­son be­came the ath­letic di­rec­tor for the school in 2006 and served in that ca­pac­ity un­til the end of the 2017-18 school year, when the new Jack­sonville North Pu­laski School Dis­trict hired a full-time ath­letic di­rec­tor, Scott Waymire.

“I’ve done what I do, and I’ve tried to do it re­ally well,” Wil­son said. “You’d like to mea­sure suc­cess in state cham­pi­onships and wins and losses, but it’s about re­la­tion­ships, re­ally good ones in the city and even in the state.”

Wil­son said it was his de­ci­sion to re­tire.

“The great thing is that it was my de­ci­sion to re­tire,” he said. “Noth­ing is bad here. In fact, ev­ery­thing is pretty good. Now is the time to get back and be a sup­porter and a cheer­leader, a vol­un­teer and a fan. I prayed about it. The last time I checked, the man up­stairs is un­de­feated.”

Wil­son said he isn’t bit­ter about not be­ing se­lected as the first full-time ath­letic di­rec­tor.

“I took the high road on that,” he said. “I could have thrown rocks and peb­bles, but what would that have solved? Noth­ing changed in my mind­set. I’ve been do­ing the same thing, help­ing the same kids. I’ve had less travel, which is a good thing. I’m help­ing with ath­let­ics. If Coach Waymire is on the road, I’m here at home, mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing runs just like it did. On pa­per, the job is still the same. Noth­ing re­ally changed, other than some­one came in here from the ad­min­is­tra­tive part that was more cer­ti­fied than I was.

“This has been a bless­ing in dis­guise. I’m not one who sits around un­til some­one tells me it’s time to go. In my heart, I know I’m go­ing to miss it, but I al­ways tell peo­ple, ‘Ev­ery­body is re­place­able.’”

Tif­fany Bone, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent for the Jack­sonville North Pu­laski County School Dis­trict, said Wil­son has done a lot for the dis­trict.

“We ad­mire his work ethic and the im­pact he has made in the lives of our schol­ars,” Bone said. “From Day 1, Jerry has been ded­i­cated to his job, and that ded­i­ca­tion never wa­vered through­out his ca­reer in Jack­sonville.

“We will cer­tainly miss his pres­ence at the high school, but we know the real fun be­gins now. We want to wish Jerry a long, healthy and happy re­tire­ment.”

Ja­son Cates, the head ath­letic trainer for the Cabot School Dis­trict, is a grad­u­ate of Jack­sonville High School, and he played foot­ball for Wil­son. Cates also worked with Wil­son as the ath­letic trainer for Jack­sonville be­fore go­ing to Cabot.

“He can talk to any­body about any­thing,” Cates said of Wil­son. “He was a coach that I ad­mired and some­one that you could al­ways go talk to about stuff, either in school or life or what­ever. His door was al­ways open.

“To know him as a coach and a men­tor, then be able to come back and work with him pro­fes­sion­ally, I see the other side of things — the time and the hours to mak­ing that thing run. His com­mit­ment to kids — the things that he did that no­body will ever know about — is spe­cial.”

Wil­son is a 1978 grad­u­ate of Ben­ton High School. He played foot­ball for the Pan­thers, help­ing lead them to the 1977 state cham­pi­onship. He at­tended Oua­chita Bap­tist Univer­sity in Arkadel­phia, where he con­tin­ued his foot­ball ca­reer.

Wil­son’s first year to teach and coach was the 1983-84 school year at Oak Grove in the Pu­laski County Spe­cial School Dis­trict.

“I left Oak Grove and came here, and it’s been noth­ing but a re­ally good fit for me,” he said. “It’s a great com­mu­nity with great peo­ple. I’ve been blessed and for­tu­nate.”

Wil­son said he was an as­sis­tant bas­ket­ball coach be­fore be­com­ing head coach.

“I coached some good kids here,” he said. “I felt like when I was com­ing up that you have to have head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in some­thing to be­come head foot­ball coach. I was a gung-ho foot­ball guy be­cause that is what got me through col­lege at Oua­chita. I learned a lot be­ing the head coach in bas­ket­ball be­cause I al­ways felt like I was a great as­sis­tant. It was a good ex­pe­ri­ence.”

A year ago, Wil­son was in­ducted into the Ben­ton Ath­letic Me­mo­rial Mu­seum Wall of Fame.

“That was a great honor, but this is home for me,” Wil­son said of Jack­sonville. “[Ben­ton] is where I grad­u­ated from.”

Wil­son and his wife, Car­letta, have three chil­dren: daugh­ters Cortessa and Jer­ica and son Jeremy. The cou­ple have one grand­daugh­ter, Jayse.

MARK BUF­FALO/THREE RIVERS EDI­TION

Jerry Wil­son, who has taught and coached at Jack­sonville High School for 35 years, will re­tire at the end of the school year. Wil­son also served as ath­letic di­rec­tor for 12 years prior to the 2018-19 school year.

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