Remembering the smile of Waltman

Tom Waltman made a memorable first impression with his huge smile; a smile that he shared generously; a smile that made you feel like you were instantly his friend.

But there are few smiles in Everett or Bedford County this week among those who knew the vibrant coach and physical education teacher, who passed away unexpectedly last Friday at the age of 54.

The news hit family, friends, students, coworkers and the community like a punch to the nose, disorienting and dizzying, trying to comprehend an unimaginable loss.

Waltman spent more than a decade as head coach of the Everett varsity football team; guiding hundreds of young men, including his own son, sharing with them far more than fundamentals and strategies of the game.

He loved coaching football; and could be moved to tears as he described Friday nights filled with excitement and sentimentality, understanding that the lessons learned and memories made would be etched into the character of those who were part of his team, just as athletic experiences had made a profound impression on him.

Tom coached on many levels and served as assistant athletic director for a time; he could often be found at all kinds of Everett athletic events, supporting and celebrating young people and their sports.

By example, he taught sportsmanship and integrity, commitment and kindness; he was supremely good and had an easy way of making those around him better.

Waltman lived with an unbridled joy and an infectious spirit of positivity, which naturally oozed into everything he did. Tom made a lasting impact on more people than he could have possibly imagined.

In school, he would seek out students who seemed alone and made them feel included; and he brightened the days of his fellow faculty members.

As president of the Lions Club, he was working toward creating a monument honoring Everett’s Medal of Honor winners, among many other club service endeavors.

On his bicycle, he would ride and chat with friends, enjoying beautiful scenery, conquering hills and sharing stories of their many excursions, often laughing at himself while encouraging others along the way. His first instinct was to let go of the handlebars to greet passers-by with a huge smile and wave.

He loved nothing more than his family: wife Sharon, son Corey and daughter Erica; but he big-heartedly shared his love for life with all who were lucky enough to know him.

With the stature of a huggable teddy bear, the unfailing spirit of a warrior and the gentle heart of a father, Waltman gave all of himself to his own children and the children of so many others for so many years. He served his school and his community in ways which will be long remembered.

For one so good to be gone so soon seems supremely unfair. But Tom Waltman leaves behind a legacy of family, faith and football; of compassion and kindness.

He will be missed for all was and for all he did, all wrapped up in his unforgettable smile.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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