LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Lufkin community stops to remember a Lufkin High School coaching icon that dedicated more than 50 years of his life to coaching and educating students.
Coach Willie, "Axe Man", Ross passed away Saturday. He was 81.
One of coach Ross's former students says the dictionary doesn't even have words to describe what Coach Ross means to this community.
Lester Price ran track and played football for Coach Ross his junior and senior year at Lufkin High School. He says, "They broke the mold when they made "Axe Man". There's only one "Axe Man."
Willie Ross began his education career in Diboll and moved to Lufkin ISD in 1970.
Lufkin Superintendent, Roy Knight says Ross played a critical role in helping to integrate Dunbar and Lufkin schools. Knight says one of the most impressive things that Ross did was work to bring the school district together during the early, tough years of integration. He stayed right here in Lufkin, Texas working to heal and uplift.
Knight says Ross told him early in his career, "You know Knight, we're all people of color, you're just colored white and that's how he saw everything."
Knight says Ross demanded perfection from everyone around him and had a profound impact on his life and every kid he ever coached. "There never was a player that played for him that didn't know how much Coach Ross loved him", Knight said.
Lufkin City Councilman, Robert Shankle ran track for Coach Ross from 7th grade through high school and remember Ross pushing him to be the best he could be. Shankle said, "He was a father figure. He was a great mentor. And he cared about his kids and it just wasn't for track or you know he care about you for your life and what you become."
Knight, Shankle and Price all say Coach Ross took them under his wing and treated each of them and all his kids, like a son. Price says, "If you say Coach Ross, it covers a multitude of things. Just that name, Coach Ross. It touches a lot of bases and a lot of things."
Shankle said "He'd push you to your limits and after it was over with he'd say yeah, see you could do it and that's what I got from Coach Ross."
Knight said "His legacy will live long long long beyond his death" and that there are so many people's lives in Lufkin that Ross touched and he will be greatly missed.
He says he will be talking with the family to discuss any plans for a memorial service in Coach Ross's honor