Gary Boggs, who coached football at Fort Vancouver High School for 34 years and inspired a countless number of players and students, died Thursday night from complications from cancer. He was 69 years old.
Boggs fell ill Thursday and dozens of family and friends rushed to Southwest Washington Medical Center to say their goodbyes prior to his death at around 8 p.m.
The outpouring of love for Boggs began early in the day when word of his condition spread. The Boggs family, including his wife Ellen, appreciated the support.
“Gary loved all of his players and there was a bond there, a bond that was there with him even at the end,” Ellen Boggs said. “We talked football. We told stories and laughed. He was listening.”
Ellen and Gary were married for 34 years. They had three children together.
“Wherever I’ve been, when running into any old Trapper, from the 1970s, 80s or 90s, I never heard one person say a negative thing about my dad,” said Brad Boggs. “He had this special ability to motivate people. He was such a loving father to all of his kids. All of his students, his players, were his kids, too. He gave his all to my mom. He loved her so much.”
Boggs retired from coaching after the 2000 season, leading the Trappers to a 163-149-3 record with five league championships and five playoff appearances. But he always said his record and the titles were secondary to just teaching his players the lessons of life.
Some of his assistant coaches were just as inspired by Boggs as the athletes they coached.
“I’ve coached with a number of different coaches, and Gary Boggs had the most influence on my life, other than my dad,” said Rick Harrington, who was a coach at Fort Vancouver for nine years with Boggs. “I don’t really know how to say it, just the way he treated kids. He had such high character.”
Harrington now is an assistant at Camas under Jon Eagle, who was a ball boy for Boggs when Jon Eagle Sr. coached with Boggs.
John Griffin, Fort’s athletic director, said any coach or athlete who grew up in Clark County knows what Boggs meant to the community.
“You couldn’t not know the name of Gary Boggs,” said Griffin, who graduated from rival Hudson’s Bay and remembers watching Boggs on the sideline. “Being in the Fort family for the last 10 years, his name pops up on a daily basis. The thing that always comes up is what a motivator he was.”
Dan Dearinger coached with Boggs for 19 years.
“He was a classic. Just a true gentleman to be around,” Dearinger said. “You’ll just miss him forever. A sad day for the Trappers.”
Carl Click, a longtime Clark County sports announcer and Portland television anchor, kept statistics and was the public address announcer while growing up as a Trapper. Years later, Click ended up working with Boggs in the radio booth the season after Boggs retired from coaching.
Click said all of his classmates respected Boggs.
“He was a great inspirer of athletes and kids. He had that great, deep baritone voice. He’d get up at a pep assembly, back when the whole school was there, and he’d say, ‘Nobody hits like a Trapper!’ The whole place just came unglued.”
Dearinger also appreciated Boggs’ sense of humor. A physical education and weight training teacher, Boggs also was accredited in history, which is what Dearinger taught.
“That was always his threat, that he was going to come over to the history department and straighten us out,” Dearinger said.
Another redeeming quality that was mentioned by several of his friends was Boggs’ ability to treat all of his players with respect, regardless of their ability on the football field.
He did have plenty of stars, too. A number of players continued their careers in college. Some, such as quarterback Steve Dils, made it to the NFL.
All of his former players are invited to his memorial, according to Brad Boggs.
“We haven’t set a date yet for a funeral, but I know my family would love to have as many former players there as possible,” Brad Boggs said. “It’s great to hear so much love so many people had for him. It’s one big family, all the people he touched.”
Boggs leaves behind his wife, and their three children, as well as three children from a previous marriage, and four grandchildren.