Fort Frye’s coach Sonny Bidwell dead at 56

BEVERLY — The Washington County community is mourning the loss of longtime Fort Frye baseball and football coach Sonny Bidwell, 56, of Beverly, who died Monday morning. Bidwell collapsed while running on the Fort Frye High School track.

A graduate of the University of Rio Grande, Bidwell was hired as an assistant coach at Fort Frye in the mid-80s. He became the head football coach in 1989 and coached for nine years. He took over the baseball program in 1998 and led the team up until his passing. He was a teacher in the Fort Frye School District for 34 years.

Bidwell was well respected by his players and fellow coaches. He impacted the lives of many Fort Frye athletes, including current head football coach Eric Huck.

“He had a huge impact on me and a lot of people,” Huck said. “He was my high school football coach, my high school baseball coach. He gave me my first coaching job. I coached baseball with him starting my sophomore year of college. He will be greatly missed by the whole community.”

Bidwell later joined Huck’s coaching staff on the football team.

Barb Sleek, athletic director at Fort Frye, said Bidwell had a strong passion for baseball and Fort Frye athletics.

“He was just in there last week working on next year’s baseball schedule,” Sleek recalled. “I thought, ‘Here’s a guy who just loves what he does.’ It’s a shocking turn of events none of us are quite ready for. Prayers for the family.”

Bidwell is survived by his wife, Kathy, daughters Maredeth and Chloe and son Samuel. He was a member of the Beverly United Methodist Church, the Fort Frye Athletic Boosters and the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.

“It makes me very sad to hear the news about him,” said Jim Thrash, former Marietta High baseball coach and friend of Bidwell. “I will miss him greatly.

“I’ve been reflecting on him, and he was a very proud man. He took a lot of pride in his family, the school, and he was very proud of the players on his team. He worked hard to make them understand the importance of what it means to be a Cadet.”

Bidwell eclipsed 300 career wins as a baseball coach in 2016. Through the end of the 2018 season, the Cadets were 350-164 in Bidwell’s 21 seasons as head coach. He guided Fort Frye to the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship game each of the past four seasons, winning the title in 2017, 2018 and also in 2005. Fort Frye won 13 Pioneer Valley Conference championships and 10 sectional championships under his direction.

The list of coaching accomplishments is a long one for Bidwell.

Sleek, a former softball coach at Fort Frye, recalled bus rides home with Bidwell after games.

“We started coaching softball and baseball around the same time,” she said. “There were quite a few long nights riding back from games. We’d talk strategies. He always had a plan A, B, C and D for everything.”

Said Thrash, “There’s been a lot of texts and calls back and forth over the years, about a rule or something not called right during a game. We were sounding boards for each other when frustrations might have been running high.”

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Beverly United Methodist Church with Pastor Jerry Penrod officiating. Viewing will be from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday at McCurdy Funeral Home in Beverly. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Fort Frye High School Baseball. Online condolences may be made by visiting www.mccurdyfh.com.

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