Mark Henry, the coach of the Owens Community College women's basketball team, was killed Wednesday night when a car he was riding in slammed into a paving machine in rural Ida Township, Michigan, Monroe County sheriff's deputies said.
Henry, 45, of Petersburg, was the head coach at Owens for the last two seasons, and was an assistant for five years before that.
Henry was the girls basketball coach at his alma mater, Summerfield High School, from 1986-90.
He compiled a record of 47-22 at Owens. The Express reached the 12-team National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship tournament last season.
“It's been a very, very sad day today,” Owens men's basketball coach Jim Welling said. “I guess it's the typical emotions. You're kind of in shock and trying to figure out what happened and why.
“I know I'm still in shock. I just talked to Mark on Monday. We were going over the schedule and getting ready for school to start on Aug. 25. I'm having trouble grasping the idea that I won't be seeing that happy face around here anymore.
“We're not only losing a great basketball coach but a great person as well. He has touched a lot of lives in the time he's been here. Words can't describe how tragic this is.
“The men's and women's basketball teams travel together on the road and I've gotten to know Mark pretty well over the years. He was a person who had a heart of gold. The people who are going to be the hardest hit are his players - former players, returning players, and incoming players. Mark did so much for those girls in trying to get them into four-year schools to play. He was a relentless worker for them. He will be sorely missed.”
Henry was pronounced dead about 10:40 p.m. Wednesday in Mercy Memorial Hospital in Monroe, where the driver of the vehicle, Christopher Myers, 31, of Toledo, was treated for minor injuries and released.
Deputies said Myers was eastbound on Ida West Road near Meanwell Road about 10 p.m. when his car struck a paving machine being operated by Russell Churchill, 32, of Monroe. Churchill sustained minor injuries and was treated at the scene, deputies said.
The asphalt paving machine was being moved from a driveway it was repaving into the eastbound lane of Ida West when the collision occurred, deputies said. It was unclear whether the paving machine was equipped with any lights.
The incident remains under investigation.
Michael Rickard, Owens athletic director, expressed sentiments similar to Welling's.
“Right now, the prayers of the whole athletic department go out to Mark's family. I was up most of the night after I found out, and I spent the day trying to focus on dealing with the student-athletes and the staff. We've had a lot of phone calls. The news traveled fast.
“I just talked to Mark yesterday and I was going to see him today. We're having softball evaluations, and he was going to be a part of that. This is just something where you're totally numb and emotionally drained.
“One of Mark's former players called me and just broke down crying. She's in college in West Virginia and said she wouldn't be where she is now if it weren't for Mark. He touched a lot of people.
“I know it's really going to hit the first time I expect to see him walk through the door here with that smiling face. I'm going to miss his comments. I would ask him, `How's it going?' and he'd always say, `Fine as frog hair.' I'll never forget that.”
When Henry was an assistant at Owens, Bill Gomoluch was the head coach. They had coached against each other at the high school level and umpired baseball and softball together.
“The biggest thing is, he was really a dedicated and loyal friend to me,” Gomoluch said. “He was like a brother. I talked to him twice that day.
“Mark loved to recruit. He really lived for Owens.”
Henry is survived by his wife, Renae, mother, Ruth, brother, Thomas, and sister, Teri.
Viewing will be Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Capaul Funeral Home in Ida, with services there Monday at 1 p.m.