A longtime football and track coach for Craven County Schools has died.
Leroy Way Jr., born April 12, 1954, to Leroy and Katherine Way, died at his residence on Friday, March 11, at age 67.
Better known as "Coach" to the numerous students and athletes, he taught and coached more than 30 years in the Craven, Lenoir and Jones counties school systems.
Way began his early education in Lenoir and Jones counties, graduating in 1972 from Kinston High School. Majoring in physical education, he attended and graduated from North Carolina Central University in Durham where he played collegiate football and pledged Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
He began his professional career at Bevenue Middle School in Nash County. During his 31 1/2 years in education and athletics, he worked in the Lenoir and Craven County school systems. He taught and coached at Rochelle Middle School in Kinston, H. J. McDonald Middle School, New Bern High School and retired from West Craven Middle School. During his career, he was awarded several football and track and field awards, medals, tournaments and championships.
Taurance Williams, who has coached at New Bern High School and West Craven High School and is currently the athletic supervisor for the City of New Bern, said no words can express the loss he feels.
Williams first met Way while in the sixth grade at H.J. Middle School and later played and studied under him as a student at New Bern High School.
"He was genuine, and he cared about each and every student and athlete that he came across," Williams said. "Even after graduating high school, we always remained a friendship and he continued to mentor and coach me, outside of the realm of sports. He was always willing to give you some helpful hints on how to handle things, both personally and professionally. He was always a helpful person."
Williams said Way was instrumental in starting one of the city's first AAU track leagues, The New Bern Blazers.
"His legacy is going to live on," Williams said. "He taught a prayer before every game, which we call the Bear Prayer. And I teach it to my players and still say it and will continue to say it before every game." .
Way met his wife, Sudie Skeens Way, while colleagues at New Bern High School and they married on Aug. 13, 1988. His wife retired from Craven County Schools as principal at Oaks Road Middle School, now Oaks Road Academy and is a former board member of Coastal Community Action, Inc. They have one daughter.
Sudie Way said her husband was an all-around person.
"He was very driven and focused," she said. "He was a great provider for his family and others in need."
Together, Leroy and Sudie were supporters of their alma mater North Carolina Central University, Sudie’s Sorority Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, Leroy’s Fraternity Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. They are also fervent members and trustees of Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Barnwell.
In November of 1990, he founded and created K. N. E. W. Rental Properties with a robust portfolio of housing options serving Craven, Jones and Lenoir counties. Way firmly believed in assisting residents to obtain affordable housing working closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance programs, while teaching and walking others through the importance of doing the work in order to pivot from worker to owner.
He was also the owner of Way's Bulldozer Service for commercial and residential land in Eastern North Carolina, clearing the path for many developments and properties thriving in the area today.
His funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19,at the West Craven High School Performing Arts Center. Entombment will follow in Greenleaf Memorial Park, New Bern. Visitation will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at Trinity Memorial Funeral Home, 1276 U.S. Hwy. 258 in Kinston and will resume one hour prior to the service. A repast will be held at the JED Business Complex, 1226 Broad St., New Bern.
Williams said one of his fondest memories of Way was following a football game while he coached the New Bern Bears and Way was coaching at West Craven High School. The Bears defeated the Eagles and during the ceremonial hand shake, each player shook Coach Way's hand and uttered "Thank you for coaching our coach."
This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: Former New Bern, West Craven high school 'Coach' Leroy Way Jr. dies