Princeton Times


December 7, 2012

RIP Coach White: Memory will live on in local hearts

PRINCETON —  Sam White III lived  a lot in his 35 years. Then, the father, husband, son, brother, coach and educator left his world with a legacy his family and friends have embraced over the last week.

White, 35, of Princeton, died overnight late Thursday or early Friday morning. His family is still awaiting news on the natural causes that claimed him too soon, but they believe that Sam’s spirit will live on in the hearts he touched and in the faith that shaped so many of his days.

Mercer County Schools Superintendent Deborah Akers’ office confirmed grief counselors were sent to PikeView Middle School to help the students mourn White’s loss and have been on the property during the whole school day.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Akers said. “I can say that Mr. White was highly regarded as a health teacher at PikeView Middle School.”

White also served as a baseball coach at PikeView High School and an assistant football coach at Princeton Senior High School, developing a wide network of students left to grieve his passing.

Known to so many students as coach White, he was also Sammy or Sambo to friends who dated back to childhood. Always committed to athletics, White forged many lifelong bonds on the baseball and football fields.

“I remember Sammy as my Little League Baseball teammate the best,” said David Gobble, who graduated with White as part of the Class of 1995. “No strikes in heaven, buddy. We were on the American Block team with black jerseys. Mr. and Mrs. White were awesome supporters of our team.”

After completing his high school career as a Princeton Tiger, White pursued an education degree at Concord University and set out to teach and coach in the Mercer County Schools system.

Assignments prior to PikeView Middle School included Princeton Primary, where bus driver Sara Osbourne saw him change one special child’s life.

“I drove a special-needs bus. I had a student on my bus who was very withdrawn, did not talk, could not talk basically,” Osbourne recalled. “Sam was working with these children at this time at Princeton Primary.”

Osbourne knew the child’s family life was anything but stable, and the woman who transported her to school every day doubted that White could make much progress. But, she watched as the teacher willed the child to improve.

“He got her to come out of her shell. Got her to talk, just made a different child out of this girl,” Osbourne said. “I know he made a great impression on this girl’s life. He worked very, very diligently throughout his career to help children. He’s really going to be missed.”

White also taught at Athens School, where he worked alongside Jean Hanna Davis, who was a pre-K teacher at the time.

Knowing he was a devout member of the Silver Springs Baptist Church and a crossword lover, Davis once presented White with a crossword puzzle from a Catholic newspaper. She said she would never forget the look on his face upon receiving the quick-witted gift.

In a Facebook message written to White’s sister, Angela White Neal, Davis said that memories of White washed over her upon learning of us untimely death.

“[There was] the time he fell asleep in my big reading chair in my pre-K classroom during our nap time and was late for his health class next door ... and the time he gave me some deer meat because I’d never had it before ... and the time he dared me to shave my head, and I did ...” Davis wrote. “Know that you all are lifted up, in constant prayer for peace.”

In 2007, White married the love of his life, Kelli Atkins White, and they shared two children, Whitney and Easton. Friends said meeting and falling in love with Kelli changed Sam’s life in ways they never dreamed, and hundreds of friends offered their support during a visitation and celebration of White’s life Tuesday at the Princeton Church of God.

“Most of the minutes in the hours since I found out about Sam White’s passing have been spent replaying all the things I remember about working with him since 2004. It’s so hard to say goodbye to someone so young and vibrant, especially one who was such a dedicated husband and father, teacher and coach. Most students will tell you that Coach White’s class was their favorite...” Amy Widener Harrison posted on her Facebook wall last weekend. “I’ll remember how proud he was of his children, Whitney going hunting and fishing with him, and how he so looked forward to Easton getting big enough to go, too. I’ll remember him calling me ‘sis’ and popping his head into my classroom daily. I’ll remember him picking at Jenny Collis on days she didn’t feel like running after school. I’ll remember him getting random ‘80s song lyrics stuck in his head and getting them stuck in mine too. I was just his co-worker and friend, and I am devastated. I can’t imagine what his wife, children, parents, and siblings must be going through. We’re all here for a little while, and I think it’s safe to say that Sam’s time here was well-spent and more than worthwhile.”

As his career expanded in the classroom, White continued teaching on the athletic fields. Sandra Reedy met White when he coached with her husband, Shane. She’ll never forget how he reached out when they needed encouragement or help.

“Any time we were sick, he was always the first one to call and check on us. He was very thoughtful,” she said.

White’s sister, Angie Neal, kept her friends updated on the family’s status throughout the week on Facebook, often posting pictures of her brother sledding down a snow-covered hill, posing beside her with her first snowman and sharing a special moment after an Easter service with the whole family.

She encouraged everyone to turn her brother’s sudden loss into a blessing for many other souls who may not yet share his faith in God and heaven.

“I am sure my brother didn’t expect for last night to be his last night, but he was ready to go. He knew who he had given his life to, and now, his race has been run, and he finished it well. I am so proud of you, Sammy!” she posted Friday.

On Twitter, friends and family members were quick to offer condolences this week. The following messages are a sampling of tweets related to White’s passing:

• Ariene Pauley: Praying for the White family and the PikeView community through the loss of a great, young teacher & coach ... God has a plan.

• Sydney: PikeView lost the greatest teacher to walk those halls today.

• Steve Barrett: Sam White, a quality person/coach who touched many lives will be greatly missed. God has a plan, please reveal it to me. He’s left a legacy.

• Jason Farley: Coach White would stay in my hospital room during the time I broke my leg, when everyone had to leave, just so I wouldn’t be alone.

• Kiersten White: Never let anything go unsaid. You never know when someone’s gonna be taken from you. RIP Coach White. You will be missed..

In lieu of flowers, White’s family asked that memorial gifts of love be made to Whitney’s and Easton’s education. Gifts may be mailed in care of the White family to 654 Athens Rd., Princeton, WV 24740.

— Contact Tammie Toler at

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