THOMSON --- Hundreds gathered Saturday to celebrate the life of a father, brother, grandfather, friend, mentor and coach.
Together they remembered Luther Welsh.
Welsh, a man who became synonymous with Thomson, was honored with a funeral service at Thomson High School. Known as "Coach" by so many, Welsh, 79, died July 14, one week after his wife, Anne, lost her battle with cancer. Though it has been an incredibly difficult time for daughters Andrea and Lucia, brothers Josey and Thomas, sister Carole, his grandchildren and many others, Welsh's family and friends know he is now at peace.
Born in Bishopville, S.C., on June 25, 1932, Welsh led the Bulldogs football team to three state titles in his 19 seasons as Thomson's coach. He won 333 games overall during his career, but his legacy stretches to his community support.
Welsh and his wife brought sacks of food and baby clothes to help a young mother, for example.
Longtime assistant John Barnett could talk about Welsh for days. He said his mentor and friend showed him and others how not to quit. In his eulogy Saturday, Barnett said he learned so much from Welsh by simply listening.
Those closest to Welsh stood in a circle and prayed before the service, coming together much as they had done only days earlier for "Miss Anne." Inside, flower arrangements were put near Welsh's coffin, with one shaped like a football.
After the service everyone went outside as people hugged, cried, smiled and told stories about Welsh and his wife.
Earlier, Thomson football radio announcer Ralph Starling shared how Welsh was a friend of New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson and that sometimes Welsh traveled with the team. One day, a fan insisted Welsh was a member of the Yankees.
Adamant that Welsh -- a catcher during his baseball playing days -- was Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, the fan wanted an autograph.
" 'I signed Luther Welsh,' " Starling recalls Welsh saying.
Welsh was laid to rest next to his beloved Anne in a family plot at Mount Zion Presbyterian Church, near the Bishopville home the two had fixed and hoped to spend their final days. They would have celebrated their 50th anniversary in September.
The couple didn't get that chance, but Welsh's family and friends believe the two are with each other.
"Luther and Anne are back together again. God knew what he was doing," the Rev. Bernard Grant said. "God put them back together again."