Cover photo for John Wade Abshire's Obituary
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John Wade Abshire

May 8, 1934 — March 9, 2022

John Wade Abshire, 87, known affectionately to his many friends as Coach, passed away Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

Never at a loss for words nor of friends, Coach loved life and took advantage of every day to learn, to laugh, to meet new best friends, to love and to look ahead. He was the consummate optimist, always looking for the best in people.

Born in Goshen, Indiana, on May 8, 1934, he graduated from Goshen High in 1952. Coach went to Indiana University where he earned a degree from the Kelley School of Business in 1956. He was proud of his summer work during college as a lifeguard at Daytona Beach, Florida, and went from saving lives on the beach to protecting the nation when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army following graduation. During his ROTC time at IU, he was a member of the Scabbard and Blade, an honor he cherished through his adult life.

Abshire Oil Company in Goshen was started by Coach’s grandfather in 1915, and the recently discharged Army captain took on the role of vice president. He continued his service to others and began his passion for local politics as a county commissioner in Elkhart County from 1965-68. In 1973 he began to work for Gov. Otis Bowen as director of the Indiana Community Executive Assistance Program and then moved to Indianapolis. Two years later he was tabbed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to take charge of membership statewide, a perfect fit for his outgoing personality.

After retirement, Coach and his wife Patty moved to Hilton Head, traveled around the country for two years in a motor home and then returned to Bloomington, Indiana, home of his beloved IU Hoosiers. It was there that he got the nickname that followed him through the remaining years of his life. IU football coach Cam Cameron got to know the man who often visited practice and regularly attended games.

            “And Cam would always call me Coach, which was a bit ironic because I’d call him Cam, and he’d call me Coach,” the man then known as Johnny to friends recalled years later.

At a pre-season practice near Chicago, Coach attended at a team meeting.

            “There’s Cam with his entire team present, and before he begins he says, ‘Gentlemen, over there in the back is Coach Abshire, the winningest coach in the history of Indiana football,’” he said.

The name stuck and went with him from Indiana to South Carolina when Coach and Patty moved to Aiken, where he met more best friends and made an impact on the community and an adopted school – UofSC Aiken. The new city was a combination of the things that Coach loved – a college to meet his desire to learn, horses that he had developed a love for in Goshen and an eclectic population that allowed him to meet people from all walks of life. It was a perfect fit.

Coach and Patty have given generously to the nursing program at UofSC Aiken where the adult health simulation lab is named in their honor. They also donated the statue of a horse named Spirit that stands in the fountain at the University’s main entrance. He spent countless hours at the University sitting in on classes, attending sports events and getting to know students and faculty.

Wherever he went, Coach worked the room as he went from person to person meeting new best friends along the way. While they were out and about with him, Coach’s family was never surprised to see him talking to a stranger, and he was never shy about introducing himself to others. Patty remembered a visit to daughter Julie’s Bay Hill, Florida, home and dining out for lunch. At a nearby table was Arnold Palmer and his wife, but Coach’s wife and daughter urged him not to go over and speak to the world-famous golfer.

As the two women were leaving the restaurant, they looked back to see Coach was missing. He had gone to speak to Arnie.

            “I wanted Arnold to have a chance to meet me,” he said afterward.

That was Coach. He got to know men and women in high places, and they knew him.

A friend of the athletics department communication director from the University of Alabama, Coach and Patty were given tickets to a game in Columbia where the Crimson Tide basketball team was taking on South Carolina’s Gamecocks. Coach was seated behind the Bama bench when USC President Harris Pastides walked by, saw the gentleman from Aiken and said, “Coach what are you doing sitting there?”

But college athletics was not the only sports interest that Coach had. He thrilled getting to spend time with his three grandsons, taking in practices and games, donating to their schools and watching them play high school and college football and lacrosse with the support that only a grandfather can provide.

He may never have coached a game, but through his life he coached family, friends and acquaintances in the way to lead a good, meaningful journey from birth to death.

In a life of giving to others, Coach was a member of numerous organizations. Among them are Rotary, Beta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi at IU, the Indiana University Alumni Association (Life Member), Hoosiers for Higher Ed, Toastmasters, the Indianapolis Columbia Club, the Elks Club, the board of Woodburn Guild at IU, the Aiken Senior Men’s Club and St. John’s United Methodist Church. He always liked getting to church early for the doughnuts and coffee – and to talk to as many of his best friends as possible.

He was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite. Coach proudly wore his Scottish Rite ring and turned it halfway around when he wanted to remember something important – and he always did. He was given the Sagamore of the Wabash, an honor presented by the governor of Indiana for his service to the Hoosier State.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years Patty White Abshire; two daughters, Jill Mays (Bill) of Syracuse, Indiana, Julie Thompson (Kirby) of Orlando, Florida, and a son, Jeffrey Wade Abshire of Goshen, Indiana; seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, a brother, Bill Abshire of Syracuse, Indiana, and his son and daughter, and an aunt Ardith Smoker Fuller of Juno Beach, Florida. Predeceasing him were his parents and one grandson.

Services will be held on Saturday, March 19, at 11 a.m. at St. John's United Methodist Church with Dr. Tim McClendon officiating. A live stream of the service will be available on Sunday, March 20, on the St. John's Facebook page and the church's website, stjaiken.org.

Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Rotary Club of Aiken.

Donations may be made to UofSC Aiken – Aiken Partnership for the Abshire School of Nursing Endowment, 471 University Parkway, Aiken, SC 29801; University Healthcare Foundation, 2260 Wrightsboro Road, Augusta, GA 30904 - Memo Line: John and Patty Abshire Endowment, and St John’s United Methodist Church at P.O. Box 809, Aiken, SC 29802. 

SHELLHOUSE FUNERAL HOME, INC., 924 HAYNE AVE., AIKEN, SC

Coach's online guest book may be signed by visiting www.shellhousefuneralhome.com

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Wade Abshire, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

A Celebration of Life

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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St. John's United Methodist Church

104 Newberry St NW
Aiken, SC 29801

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