SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - It was a somber Monday in Summerville where the community came together to pay their final respects to retired Summerville High School Football coach John McKissick.
McKissick died on Thanksgiving morning at age 93. He had been under hospice care and was surrounded by family, Dorchester County Coroner Paul Brouthers said.
McKissick’s funeral began at 2 p.m. at the Bethany United Methodist Church.
Hundreds of community members, family members, and former players all came together to say goodbye to McKissick.
“We all miss his smile, his laughs, his many green baseball caps, His smell of cologne in the room, and his many sayings, such as, ‘The early bird gets the worm,’ ‘It is what it is,’ and ‘Life is like football without a helmet,’” his granddaughter, Kyle McElveen York, said.
She said McKissick and his wife, Joan, were married for 67 years.
“Though they were opposites they worked. And even until Thursday, it was Grandma that kept him holding on. Grandma loved that he looked for the positive in all situations. She was always there, only missing two games in 63 seasons, and he wouldn’t have been so successful in life without her," she said. “What peace we can all have as a family is he’s likely walking the sidelines and calling out all those refs in heaven right now. Granddad loved many, but he was loved by many. He was a people person and made everyone feel like they were the most important.”
In one powerful moment during the service, the pastor asked all the coach’s former players to stand: dozens rose to their feet. They were just some of the thousands McKissick coached during more than six decades.
Some of the players he coached went to on the NFL. He even coached three of his grandchildren.
Foerm Summerville Assistant Coach Brad LaPrad worked alongside McKissick and still remembers how the entire town would shut down and make its way to the football field on Friday nights.
“The atmosphere around Summerville football, when I first came here it was just unbelievable," he said. "I’ve never been anywhere where they close the streets off at 3 o’clock and none of the shops were open, none of the restaurants were open. That’s just what he brought to town. Everybody -- and when I say everybody -- I mean everybody went to the football game. If you were a thief, you could have wiped Summerville out on a Friday night.”
McKissick spent a 63-year career as head coach of Summerville High School and holds the record for the most wins of any football coach at any level.
Born on September of 1926, in Greenwood, McKissisk would attend Kingstree High School before graduating and heading to Brevard College. After a short stint in the Army, he would return to school at Presbyterian where he graduated in 1951 with a degree in economics.
A year later, he arrived at Summerville to lead the Green Wave, and success was something he and his team found early and often.
Three years after his arrival, he’d win his first state championship. And followed that up with another the next season. It would be the start of a run that saw McKissick win at least one state title in each of his first five decades.
Region titles were almost common place at Summerville under McKissick. In 37 times in his 63 years with the Green Wave, the team won at least a share of the region championship.
Perhaps even more impressive than the amount of winning McKissick did, was the lack of losing his teams would experience. Only twice in 63 years, 1957 and 2001, did a Summerville team end the season with a record under .500. By comparison, there were five times when his team would finish the season without a loss.
More state titles would come; 1969, back to back in 1978 and 79, then his most successful run with four titles in the 80′s including a three-peat from 1982-1984 and again in 1986.
Once McKissick reached the 1990s, that’s when the career milestones started to come. In 1993, he would win his 406th career game, making him the all-time winningest head coach on any level of organized football. That win brought the coach and the school national recognition.
After what turned out to be his final state title in 1998, McKissick’s next career defining win came in 2003 when he became the first coach to win 500 games. Nine years later, his 600th win came against one of his former assistants beating Kenny Walker and Ashley Ridge.