By Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal
HOULKA – The Houlka gymnasium was filled to capacity Jan. 18 as faculty, staff and students of Houlka High School, along with family members and friends, said goodbye to Coach Jimbo Byars.
Byars, 47, died Jan. 15 after a brief battle with cancer, leaving his wife, children and many family members as survivors, but those who attended his service felt he left the world a better place for his presence in it.
Byars began his career as a student teacher at Tupelo High School in 1993 and taught history at Houlka Attendance Center for many years. During his tenure at Houlka he coached baseball, softball, football and track and kept the time clock for basketball games.
Although Byars’ funeral was held at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats were on the court playing basketball in Okolona Friday night. Coach Vicki Homan said the staff felt the decision to play was best for the students.
“We’re playing with heavy hearts right now,” Homan said. “But we thought it was best to get the kids back into a regular routine. We have to move on, that’s what he would have wanted.”
During the memorial service, Coach Jimmy Guy McDonald, Sid Burt, Seth Burt, Bro. Jeff Harmon and Bro. David Blackwell all spoke of Byars’ desire to be a witness for the Lord and to minister to others while battling his own illness.
Homan said his support for and love of the students at Houlka Attendance Center will help ease their loss.
“He always wanted the girls to leave it all on the floor,” Homan said. “It didn’t matter if they won or lost. He wanted them to strive no matter what the score.”
A reception was held at First Baptist Church of Houlka following the memorial service and interment was in Lee Memorial Park in Verona.