It was barely even a year ago when Bart Williams learned he had cancer.
Weeks before, Pottsboro's head baseball coach had finished up the football season as an assistant for another playoff run. His focus was then going to turn to baseball with practice less than a couple of months away. That had been Williams' routine for 12 years at Pottsboro. The rhythmic hum of a coach's life. Mix in watching his daughters compete in their respective sports and the yearly cycle would mark the time. A season rolls into another and then another. Except when everything changed barely a year ago. Williams didn't feel right. He made a trip to the doctor. Then a specialist. The diagnosis came back as colorectal cancer. If you knew Bart Williams like many of us in the Texoma athletic community, you probably knew what he was going to do next. You knew there wouldn't be much complaining, if at all, and there would probably be a smile on his face. After starting chemotherapy the day after Christmas and infusion treatments every two weeks, preparations began for another opening day. Pottsboro has been one of the most consistent and successful baseball programs since he took over. Like clockwork they were in the playoffs, usually making a deep run. Despite his health issues, Williams had goals to turn 2018 into another one of those seasons. He was at every practice. He was at every game. The positive approach he took to his situation and job and his dedication to his students, athletes, school and family was as unwavering as ever – even though in early March he lost his mother to a battle with breast cancer. It was no surprise the results were there when the season came to an end in late May. “Play for Willy” was the battle cry. There was a 23-7 record and an undefeated district title, the fifth time Williams guided his team to the top of the standings. There was a trip to the region semifinals, the best finish in three seasons. Late in the regular season Williams earned his 300th victory in Texas. He finished with 307. Two of those victories came in 2007, his first at Pottsboro, when the Cardinals rallied to beat Peaster, 9-8 and 8-6, after dropping the first game of the Class 2A Region II final series by an 8-5 margin. That sent Pottsboro to state for the fifth time and first in 19 years. It was the pinnacle of Williams' career to make the state semifinals. On paper that is his crowning achievement. But the impact he has left goes beyond district titles and a state tournament run and any milestone victory. It is the way the legacy of a teacher, one whom the school district named its Secondary Teacher of the Year in May, and coach can change the lives of a countless number of students who crossed his path on their way through Pottsboro. Just like the ones during his stops at Sherman, Pauls Valley (Okla.) and Van Alstyne. We all have that coach who still plays a part in our lives, whether we graduated last year, five years or five decades ago. We find ourselves saying the slogans and repeating the words of wisdom. We find ourselves in the situation we were prepared for without ever realizing it. Williams was honored at our All-Texomaland Banquet in June with the Deckard-Pelton-Woodlee Courage Award for persevering down a path that many people would not have traveled under the circumstances. He went to New York City to celebrate his wedding anniversary just a few weeks later. Of course part of the trip involved baseball, watching the Red Sox and Yankees play. When school started again he was back in the press box doing his football duties. Then in the middle of October he had to be rushed to the hospital after a Friday night game. Whatever treatments they tried were unable to halt the disease. The prognosis wasn't good and it got worse. An early Christmas was held. Bart Williams passed away in his home early Sunday morning at the age of 47. He is survived by his wife Alison, also a teacher and coach in the school district, and his daughters Haiden, a freshman on the Southeastern Oklahoma State basketball team, and Hadley, a sophomore at Pottsboro. We mourn for them because a husband and father were taken from them far sooner than any family should have to endure. I also mourn for the students and athletes yet to come up through the ranks in Pottsboro; the ones who won't have the chance to see their lives changed by a man who was committed to doing that for as long as God let him.