DESOTO—Sunday morning I got a disturbing phone call, that my dear friend, colleague and co-laborer in Christ, Coach Shannon Lilly Sr. (aka Deacon Lilly), passed. Coach Lilly, a devout man of God, was a gym coach at DeSoto East Middle School, where we worked together.
As many people know, I mentor a lot of boys at East, taking them to church periodically on Sundays. But what I want those who knew him to know is that Coach was right there with me the whole time.
Coach Lilly, who suffered a heart attack Saturday, was instrumental in forming a strong partnership between our mentoring program at East and Lancaster Full Gospel Holy Temple, the church at which he was a deacon.
Together, we’d taken our kids to his church and then out for pizza and limousine rides. Coach would pick the kids up for church faithfully.
In fact, he and I were planning to barbecue for the young people in our mentoring program right after our return to school from our Christmas break.
My heart goes out to the Lilly family, Lancaster Full Gospel family, the DeSoto ISD family, and the Dallas ISD family, where he also worked earlier in his career.
In Coach Lilly, we’ve lost a treasured gem. Yet we take great comfort in knowing that he is now and forevermore in the presence of God.
“Words can’t express what he meant to us and our students, and I ask that we come together and keep his family in our prayers,” said Brandon Ward, head principal at East.
Twelve-year-old East student Delvion Smith said Coach has made a lasting impression on him.
“He used to help me with stuff, like practicing basketball and football and hockey,” Smith said. “He was a great man.”
By all accounts of many who knew him, Coach Lilly was a wonderful coach and champion for young people. But to Khamari Ford, 13, another East student, Coach was exceptional.
“He was the best coach I ever played with because he helped me on my game,” the young basketball player said. “He helped me to follow my shot. And he helped me to become a greater person.
“When I found out that he died, I thought they were lying. And then when I talked to Coach (Anthony) Woodson, he told me, ‘Sorry, Khamari. Coach Lilly passed on last night.’ I started crying.”
Ford found out on Instagram when another student, Braelyn Blackmore, had posted “RIP, Coach Lilly.”
Students Remember Coach Lilly
Though Coach is gone, what he meant to scores of people will live on.
“There are special people in our lies who never leave us, even after they are gone. Coach Lilly has left a major impact on the young and old at DeSoto East Middle School. He will forever live in our hearts,” says Lamonica Cole, administrative assistant to the principal at East Middle School.
“‘Coach Lilly’ was beyond incredible and lived a life of holiness before us,” said Coach’s son, Shannon Lilly Jr. “He was more than just a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, and so much more. We lost the leader of our family.
“This was a complete shock and happened so suddenly,” Shannon Lilly Jr. said. “Words cannot describe how my mom, Gloria, my brother, Gabe, and I feel right now. Our entire family is affected by this loss as we try to make sense of God’s plan for our future.”
Karen Williams Lacy, an educator who once worked with Coach Lilly in Dallas, said, “Coach Lilly was a joy to work with. His Dallas ISD family mourns, too.”
At presstime funeral arrangements have not been made, but the Lilly family has been talking with Apostle Herman L. Murray Jr., who pastors Full Gospel Holy Temple, Dallas, about possibly holding service there on Jan. 20, a Saturday.
In the meantime, Shannon Lilly Jr. said the public is welcome to call the Lillys at (214) 663-1805 for updates.
I’d like to say to Coach Lilly: “Thanks for the memories, Coach. Your legacy will continue to influence us in our endeavor to make this world a better place.”
Donald Lee is a Dallas-area pastor and freelance journalist who also works security at East Middle School in DeSoto. Join him for prayer Mondays through Fridays from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. by calling (218) 862-4590, code 279498#.