Community members mourn shooting victims

Public memorial planned

Saturday for Isaacs

PICKENS — Word of the shooting deaths of legendary Pickens football coach Bill Isaacs and his neighbor, Dickie Stewart, spread quickly around the community Monday.

[cointent_lockedcontent]Current Blue Flame coach John Boggs said he was shocked when he learned of the killings after his second-period class.

9-16 Page 1A.indd“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Boggs, who had a Shrine Bowl career as a center under Isaacs before graduating in 1991.

“Outside of my parents and grandparents, I don’t know of any other human being who has had as much influence on me as Bill Isaacs did. Being a 5-year-old kid sitting there in the stands watching Pickens play games and growing up and watching Bill Isaacs coach teams and then having played for him myself, he had a huge impact on what I’m doing now.”

Boggs, who is in his first year as head coach of his alma mater, said Isaacs had recently become more involved in the program he took over as a fresh-faced 24-year-old in 1965 and led until his retirment in 1993 due to health concerns.

“He really battled through a lot last spring health-wise, and getting back healthy and9-16 Page 1A.indd seeing him out and about was really good the past few weeks,” Boggs said.

Boggs said Isaacs and longtime assistant Andy Virgil had been in attendance at each of the Pickens Touchdown Club’s luncheons this season.

“Being able to get Coach kind of off to the side and talk a little football was fun, because he’d be able to just start popping that stuff off like it was yesterday, talking about little things like coaching technique and different things with plays and ways to run it,” Boggs said. “Just seeing his eyes light up and him start pulling that stuff out, it was like he was right back in the trenches right now.”

Boggs said he also had the opportunity to get to know Stewart through Isaacs.

“Back last spring, I was able to spend some time out in the yard with Dickie and coach, just talking, hanging out and spending some time together,” said Boggs, who said he graduated from PHS in the same class as Stewart’s daughter. “I really enjoyed getting to know him and the kind of person he is. Of course, a lot of folks in the community knew Dickie and respected him as well, so that makes it even more tragic.”

Former Pickens mayor Ted Shehan was also friends with both Isaacs and Stewart.

“When we were recruiting (Isaacs) to come to Pickens, I had the honor of showing him around,” Shehan said. “The Pickens Booster Club asked me to show him Pickens and what a great place it was to live.

“Bill was not only the greatest football coach Pickens has ever had, but he was also one of the best friends I have ever had.”

Shehan said he has known the Stewart family all his life and often discussed Pickens family history with Stewart.

“He was one of the most likable people you would ever want to meet,” Shehan said.

Virgil, who first met Isaacs when the two played together at Appalachian State in 1960, coached at Pickens with Isaacs from the beginning of his tenure through his retirement.

“We went through a lot of good times and bad times here together,” Virgil said. “We talked and we laughed and we did a lot of things together.”

Although Isaacs led the Blue Flame to seven region championships and a 181-109-5 record, including a stretch of 57 consecutive regular-season wins from 1969-75, during his 28 seasons at the helm, Virgil said one of the things his friend would be most remembered for is the impact he had on generations of young people coming through Pickens.

“He mentored a lot of folks, a lot of kids coming through high school, and tried to teach them the right way to do things and prepare them for what lie ahead,” Virgil said. “I know a lot of guys have come back and thanked him for all he did for them.”

More than 20 years after his retirement, Isaacs’ legacy still looms large in Pickens. In addition to football, Isaacs also coached basketball and softball at for the Blue Flame and served as athletic director and assistant principal at Pickens during his nearly three decades at the school. A Pickens High School Athletic Hall of Fame member, Isaacs was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011.

Former coach Bob Allison, who was an assistant under Isaacs for 23 years and more than 250 games, said Isaacs “put Pickens on the map.”

“He will be tremendously missed by the whole community — not just by the players he coached,” Allison said. “I already miss him very much.”

Former Blue Flame star Rick Anthony, who played at the University of South Carolina and then the World Football League and NFL after his playing days under Isaacs at Pickens, said he was a hard-nosed coach who expected the best from his players.

“The skills and toughness I learned under Coach Isaacs allowed me to further my career, and I will always be grateful for that,” Anthony said.

Anthony was also a cousin of Stewart.

“Dickie was a good man who took a big interest in our family,” he said. “He always headed up the annual Anthony family reunion and put a great deal of time into it. He will be greatly missed.”

Anthony’s wife, Peggy, is a longtime Pickens volleyball coach who said Isaacs was responsible for her taking over the Lady Blue Flame program in 1976. She also said Isaacs had a special relationship with her father, Dr. John M. Harden, a former Pickens doctor.

Pickens mayor David Owens, who also played for the Blue Flame under Isaacs, said the coach always took care of all his players on and off the field.

“It is a tragedy, and I hated to hear of his passing,” Owens said. “The Pickens community lost two great men (on Monday).”

Former coaching rivals also remembered the impact Isaacs had on them.

Easley mayor Larry Bagwell, a longtime coach of the Easley Green Wave, said the rivalry between his teams and Isaacs’ were “second to none.”

“Bill talked tough football, and his team exemplified it, and you had to be ready when you played them from beginning to end,” Bagwell said Tuesday. “He and I got along real well, and I can’t believe his life has ended.

“Last night, at our council meeting, the pastor who gave the invocation was a former player of his and he spoke highly of him. I thought that was a great testimony.”

Legendary Daniel coach Dick Singleton, the namesake of the Lions’ Singleton Field, reflected on the camaraderie local coaches had during the time he, Bagwell and Isaacs were facing off on opposing sidelines.

“It’s not like that now — it’s changed like the times changed,” he said. “It was a close-knit group. We were good competitors, but we were close-knit and knew each other. We knew each others’ families — I knew (Isaacs’) wife and son, who played for him.

“It’s a sad time for the people in Pickens and elsewhere. I especially feel bad for him and his family.”

State Sen. Larry Martin and State House Rep. Davey Hiott, both of whom attended Pickens during Isaacs’ tenure, also remembered him and Stewart on Tuesday.

“My heart goes out to both the Stewart and Isaacs families,” Martin said. “Their deaths are a big loss to our community and the lives they touched in the community.

“This was a tragedy for all involved,” Hiott added. “My thoughts and prayers go out for the Stewart family and Isaacs family during their time of loss. They were both great men, and this type of thing is not supposed to happen in Pickens. The community will miss them both.”

A public memorial service is being planned for Saturday morning for all players, fans and friends of Isaacs. The event, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., will be held at Bruce Field in downtown Pickens. Parking will be available at Pickens Middle School, Legacy Square and along the street. Former Blue Flame players are asked to wear their jerseys if able, and others are asked to wear Blue Flame spirit gear to celebrate Isaacs’ life.