MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Condolences streamed in from as far as Texas and Massachusetts as fans and friends gathered Thursday to pay tribute to former West Virginia University football Coach Bill Stewart.
Stewart died Monday of an apparent heart attack at age 59 while on a golf outing with former Athletic Director Ed Pastilong.
Mourners attended a seven-hour public viewing at the Morgantown Event Center as police and hotel security tried to keep journalists outside.
Inside a cavernous ballroom, hundreds of chairs were set up so family, friends and fans could view photos projected on two screens. Framed and mounted photo collages were tucked into a long, curving row of flower arrangements.
Among those saying goodbye was Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
"He practiced what he preached, living every day, every minute, in a way that could leave no doubt about the kind of man he was," Tomblin said in a statement issued the night before. "A gentleman of uncommon decency and honor and warmth, a passionate coach, a throwback to a simpler, purer era in sports."
Blake Tasker, 33, a former graduate assistant who worked under Stewart during the 2010 season, called him "genuine" and the kind of man every father hopes his daughter will date and marry.
Stewart was dedicated to his wife, Karen, and their only child, Blaine, and never missed one of his son's football games.
"Even in the middle of seasons, he would go and watch Blaine play. He would take time and get out of the office to go see his son," said Tasker, adding his former boss set an example for his players in life.
"It was about teaching them how to be good members of society, teaching them how to be young men ... instead of just athletes," Tasker said. "That is a legacy that he did want to leave."
Ileana Ilee and Emily Stiles, 17-year-old classmates of Blaine Stewart, were among the first of what they said would be many Morgantown High School students showing support for their friend.
"I can't imagine losing somebody like that," Ilee said.
Stiles has known Blaine for several years but only met his father a few times.
"Even though I didn't really didn't know him, I would see him downtown or whatever and he would always say `hi,"' she said. "He was just such a nice guy. He meets you once, he knows you."