CONYERS - When friends and family lost Salem High School coach Jeff Blount in September after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he lived on in their minds and hearts. And now a group of friends and family dedicated to preserving his memory wants Blount to be honored in a special, more public way.
In January, the group plans to present a proposal to the Rockdale County Board of Education to name the field at Rockdale County High School "Jeff Blount Memorial Field." The stadium would remain Robert J. Reid Memorial Stadium.
Although Blount, 41, served the last years of his life as a teacher and coach at Salem High School, where he began teaching and coaching in 1992, his friends and family think honoring him at RCHS, where he graduated in 1985 and later began his social studies teaching and coaching career, would be most fitting.
"We talked and felt like we need to keep Jeff's name in the community," said Dean Hayes, a life-long friend of Blount who is helping to head up the project. "He was a popular coach and committed as a teacher and coach. Rockdale (County High School) was where he went to school and where he had his first job, so we thought this was the best place."
So far, the group has raised some funding for the project, which would include replacing the sign on Pine Log Road to keep the stadium name and add the new field name in a more modern facade, as well as adding lettering to the stadium's press box to identify the field name.
The group plans to present this information, as well as collected letters of support from the community, to the school board at its 7 p.m. meeting Jan. 15.
"We want students, past students, co-workers, anybody to write in," Hayes said. "He was committed to his job ... (and) they know what he stood for."
Hayes already has collected several letters of support through the Jeff Blount blog, found at http://jeffblount.blogspot.com, but Hayes wants even more, no matter how simple or detailed.
"I'd like to bring in a wheelbarrow full," he said.
Community members who would like to write in to show their support should e-mail their letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the several fundraisers the group has already held, Blount's friends and family hope to hold additional fundraisers in 2009 and eventually start an foundation to provide a scholarship at RCHS and/or SHS and to open an education fund for Blount's children, 18-year-old Matthew Neisler, 9-year-old Drew and 6-year-old Megan.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at email@example.com.