Port St. Joe, FL---The Dome on the campus of Port St. Joe high school was packed Saturday, but not for a basketball game, but rather in remembrance one of the most accomplished and most beloved members of our sports community, legendary Sharks coach Vern Eppinette.
Saturday afternoon, on the very court named after him, family, friends, fellow coaches, former players, and the community gathered and payed homage to the man who brought six state championships to St. Joe, five in basketball and one in track.
Monday night, Coach Epp, as he was known by those closest to him, passed away after a decade long battle with cancer. In reflection of a full life and a list of accomplishments few can rival, those who knew him best describe this great coach and even greater person.
"Character, honesty, fierce competitior, mentor, friend," says friend and Chipley head basketball coach joel Orlando. "The accolades go on and on. Just a pure basketball icon."
"It was way past basketball for what he did with these young men and he was trying to make them better people as they got out in the community and help them strive to be the best they could be," says Eppinette's former assistant basketball coach, Chuck Gannon.
"He was always there with us," says former Shark player Damien Byrd. "Everything he told us, or brought to us, we believed. And we believed it because he lived it and showed it and we won. That guy, who we're here today to immortalize and honor, his tradition lives on in all of us. We are a brotherhood and the father has fallen."
"We're gonna love him, miss him," says Orlando. "We know he's up there at the basketball gate of heaven. And I just hope that one day I have one-tenth of his reputation and that he'll let me in to the gates of heaven."
Vern Eppinette, gone at 65, but never forgotten.