The Reverend Father Jerry Carlton Pardue, known by many as “Coach Pardue,” passed away in Athens, Texas on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. He was 84 years old. Jerry was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on January 1, 1938, to Henrietta Pardue. His father wasn’t part of his life, he never married, and he had no children of his own, but he became a father figure to many as a wrestling coach, and later as a priest, during his lifetime.
Jerry was a strong believer in education and pursued studies at various schools throughout his life. In 1971, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from East Stroudsburg State College (now East Stroudsburg University). He also attended Southwest State University in Minnesota as an undergraduate, and did graduate work at the University of South Carolina, Arizona State and the University of Cincinnati. In 2002, he graduated from the Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin. Though he worked for a time as a computer programmer for Coca-Cola, Jerry’s true passion was wrestling. He competed at the 118-weight class in college, and subsequently began a coaching career that spanned three decades. Coach Pardue served as the head wrestling coach of various programs from high school to Division I, including Northern Kentucky State College (now Northern Kentucky University), the University of Cincinnati, Central Arizona College, the University of South Carolina, Union College, Cumberland County College (now Rowan College), Wilmington College, and Carleton College, his final coaching position. In 2000, he was honored as “Coach of the Year” by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Coach Pardue believed that wrestling could only be learned by wrestling, and he endeavored to get his athletes as many matches as possible. He led his teams on legendary multi-state wrestling tours, arranging competitive matches nearly every day of the week. Those who had the privilege of spending time with Coach on a long road trip were sure to be met with interesting conversations, Garrison Keillor on the radio, and Coach’s characteristic defensive driving style (except in New York City where his aggressiveness behind the wheel was unmatched). Jerry was particularly skilled at recruiting athletes to the sport, but it goes beyond that. He deeply cared about his wrestlers. He went to great lengths to give opportunities to athletes, especially those of limited means, even travelling on his own dime to meet recruits or bring them to campus for visits. Jerry was known to allow any wrestler who wanted to participate in one of his many camps or tournaments to do so at no charge even if the wrestler’s family couldn’t afford it, although this practice often left him scrambling to pay all overhead by the tournament or camp’s end.
Perhaps Jerry’s greatest legacy is that his was a life lived completely for others. Faith in God and a life leading towards Heaven were what mattered to him. This, combined with his desire to help others and give of himself, led him to become an Anglican priest when he was in his late 60s. Ordained in 2005, Father Pardue was a member of the Missionary Society of St. John and was called to lead the parish of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Athens, Texas, where he served until his retirement in 2021.
Jerry did not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but instead invested a lifetime pouring out his time, effort and energy into others. Those investments continue to bear fruit, and his memory will live on in the many lives he touched.