New Martinsville stunned by loss of 'true son' Bill Stewart
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The mayor of New Martinsville met Bill Stewart in the former West Virginia football coach's earliest days at Magnolia High School.
Lucille Blum said Monday that she won't soon forget Stewart's impact on the riverfront town, nor will the ties that bound her to Stewart soon be severed.
"My nephew, Rob Fauber, is married to his sister-in-law, little Gretchen (Kacor), so I knew him in a family way," said Blum, who called Stewart's sudden passing a "tragic day for New Martinsville," which was Stewart's hometown.
"He has always been the kindest, most gentle man. For all the talent he had in athletics, he always tried to say what was the most kind and helpful thing."
Stewart graduated from Magnolia in 1970, seven years after Blum began her career as a teacher there.
"I've known him forever, as a part of the community. I know, speaking for the city of New Martinsville that there was the greatest love here for Bill Stewart."
The Wetzel County seat with a population of just under 6,000, New Martinsville still displays signs at its northern and southern entrances along W.Va. 2 and its eastern entrance along W.Va. 7 that mark the town as Stewart's point of origin. He was born there in 1952.
The outpouring of grief wasn't relegated to the boundaries of Stewart's hometown Monday. Wetzel County natives took to social media in full force throughout the day and evening with their expressions of emotion, as well as pride.
"There's a lot of sadness right now, but there are also a lot of positive emotions of people that are being displayed as well. Bill Stewart was a man that had such a positive attitude on everything," said New Martinsville native and Walsh University assistant sports information director Logan Smith.
"I feel very thankful, blessed, honored, proud, whatever words you want to use, to call New Martinsville my hometown and to have graduated from Magnolia," Smith said. "Part of that is because of Bill Stewart. It's not often, especially in West Virginia, where you can have such a strong role model right in your hometown."
Magnolia baseball coach, and the Blue Eagles' football coach from 1979-98, Dave Cisar said Stewart was a rare breed of person. Cisar learned of Stewart's death just before Magnolia's Class AA Region 1 baseball semifinal against Oak Glen on Monday, a game won by Magnolia, 6-2.
"I never coached him. He was gone before I took over, but he never forgot where he came from and a lot of people, you can't say that about," Cisar said. "Bill Stewart was a real good, personal friend of mine. There are few coaches on any level, especially at the big time, who would cross the street to say hello to you, and he was always would."
Blum recalled when Stewart was named head coach following the Mountaineers' surprise win over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, noting the outpouring of pride and support that emanated from the community.
"There was a huge banquet for him, and we could not answer all of the requests for tickets," she said. "We just couldn't, there were so many requests. We couldn't fill them all. He was so happy to be in New Martinsville and to talk about the prospects for the future."
"When he came here to New Martinsville, he was swarmed; all the time. He'd come to our church to attend mass on Saturday evenings and it was like that," Cisar said.
The father of four sons including two-time Kennedy Award-winning quarterback Mark Cisar, the former Blue Eagle coach said the loss sustained by the Stewart family is what troubles him most.
"Bill was a great person and has a great family. I feel bad for his son. His dad was his best friend," Cisar said. "They were very close, especially after all that went down (in Morgantown) when he stepped down."
Stewart's son, Blaine Stewart, is a junior quarterback at Morgantown High School.
The town's support of the former coach never waned, even after his controversial resignation in 2011.
"As a community, we are understandably sad," said Wetzel Chronicle Editor and 1990 Magnolia graduate Amy Witschey.
"I've heard it said a few times today that Bill Stewart died of a broken heart. I think that's true. Our hearts are all a bit broken, too, at hearing the news of his death."
Witschey called Stewart "New Martinsville's biggest cheerleader. He made us all so proud."
Blum added that his legacy as it applied to his hometown will be one that reminds future generations to stay true to themselves.
"For those of us who knew him as a young man and then as he grew into a professional position, he was a person who never changed," Blum said. "He was always thoughtful, kind and generous with his time.
"He was a true son of New Martinsville."
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170.