The entire Fork Union Military Academy family was saddened to hear of the recent passing of a FUMA alumnus and coaching legend, Coach Bill Blair. Our hearts are heavy and our love and support goes out to Mary Helen, and all of the Blair family at this time.
The family has provided us with the below obituary and has noted that a memorial gathering will be held in Fork Union at a later date to be shared with the closest of family and friends. The family further suggests that, if desired, contributions can be made in Coach Blair's honor and designated to The William A. Blair Postgraduate Scholarship Fund at Fork Union Military Academy.
November 3, 1929 - August 27, 2023
William Andrew Blair, 93, of Woodlawn, VA, transitioned from this physical life on Sunday, August 27, 2023 to enter his new and perfect eternal life. Surrounded by his family in his home, he passed peacefully and painlessly with the same strength and dignity he exemplified throughout his entire life of nearly 94 years.
Born in Galax, VA in 1929, his life is a great American success story of overcoming hardship to learn, to achieve, to lead, to mentor, to serve and to love. His youth was spent on the ball fields of Southwest Virginia, where he developed into a local star in football, basketball, and baseball at Galax High School. Recognizing his exceptional talent and potential, an anonymous group of local businessmen contributed the funds which allowed him to attend the renowned Fork Union Military Academy in central Virginia where he excelled in the classroom and starred as an athlete. It was during his time at "FUMA" that he met his eventual lifelong mentor, Charles Graham "Rosie" Thomas, a fellow southwest Virginian who served as his coach, Director of Athletics and a father figure.
Following a period of heavy recruitment by college athletic programs while at FUMA, Blair headed to Hampden-Sydney College, a highly reputable all-men's school, where he achieved greatness in the classroom and on the playing fields and made countless lasting friendships. He was named All-State as a quarterback in football and catcher on the baseball team, and in 2009 he was inducted into the college's Sports Hall of Fame. However, by far his greatest and most important achievement at Hampden-Sydney came during September of 1949, when he met his eventual wife, best friend and life partner in Mary Helen Cook who was attending nearby Longwood College. Their love story is one for the ages, and not easily told in one brief memorial tribute such as this.
A patriot in every sense of the word, Blair proudly served his country in both the United States Army and Marine Corps, and was an active member of his local American Legion chapter in his later years. His deep appreciation for the freedoms and privileges we all enjoy as Americans was sincere and openly expressed on a daily basis.
After his time spent at Hampden-Sydney and in the United States military, Blair was offered employment at Fork Union Military Academy as a teacher and coach, where he returned to work under the guidance of his former coach and mentor, Coach Rosie Thomas. It was in Fork Union where he and Mary Helen raised their family, forged their most meaningful lifelong friendships, and found a true home for nearly 40 years. Blair eventually served as the Academy's Director of Athletics and played a central role in the elevation of FUMA's athletic program into national and international prominence. Most of the Academy's athletic fields and facilities were shaped and cared for by his strong and devoted hands.
"Coach Blair" mentored thousands of young men during his tenure as teacher, coach and Director of Athletics at FUMA, including many administrators and coaches who became like sons to him. Out of all that he contributed to and achieved at Fork Union, his genuine concern and unwavering consideration for all whom he encountered were his indelible trademarks.
A spiritual man, he was an active member and an elder of both Fork Union Presbyterian Church and Hillsville Presbyterian Church, and was a frequent Sunday School teacher. His love of nature and constant wonderment at the ineffable (his favorite word) beauty and miracles all around him were something to behold. The birds, the trees, the mountains, the sky, the flowers... the joy of seeing children. The simple beauties that life delivers us every day were never taken for granted. He was a true romantic and an insatiable reader and lover of poetry and prose, much of which he would recite verbatim at a given moment when the mood struck. He was not a frequent traveler, yet he knew more about the world around him and its many diverse regions, cultures and religions than most. He never strove to amass a financial fortune, but was among the richest men the world has ever known in terms of the knowledge he accumulated and the fulfillment he received from the most meaningful and moving aspects of life.
"Coach". "Blair". "Dad". "Grandad". His legacy lives on through all who have had the privilege of knowing him. His family will continue to feel his presence and love daily: His beloved wife of more than 70 years, Mary Helen Cook Blair; daughters Virginia Reid Hall (Scott), Marianne Rupp (Bill) and Elizabeth Haynie (Dave); his son William Blair (Marian) and six grandsons, Zachary Matthew Haynie, William Scott Mitchem, William Paul Rupp, Walker James Blair, Christopher William Blair, and his little namesake Christopher Blair Mitchem with whom he has now been reunited.
A memorial gathering will be held in Fork Union, VA at a later date to be shared with the closest of family and friends. If desired, contributions can be made in his honor to The William A. Blair Postgraduate Scholarship Fund at Fork Union Military Academy, 4744 James Madison Highway, Fork Union, VA 23055.
Otherwise, please simply take a moment to honor his legacy by appreciating the ineffable beauties of life, or sharing your kindness with someone who needs it.