A northeastern Oklahoma teacher and coach was remembered Tuesday as a wonderful man and friend.
Harry “Butch” Beggerly, 61, of Miami, Okla., died Sunday evening after being struck by lightning when a storm developed while he was hunting near Quemado Lake in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, authorities said. He and another hunter had sought shelter under a 20- to 30-foot tree.
The Welch science teacher and softball coach had just come out of retirement from the Miami school district two years earlier.
Classes started Aug. 17, but Beggerly had won a hunting lottery and was able to take time off.
Beggerly’s body is expected to arrive in Miami later this week.
“He was an awesome man, a good person and a real good friend,” said Tobie Gatewood, Welch’s school counselor.
The 410-member student body learned the news Monday morning during a school assembly. The community’s ministerial alliance was brought in to counsel students who needed to talk about Beggerly’s death, Gatewood said.
She said most of the students who are having a hard time with Beggerly’s death are those he coached or had in his class.
“In his classroom, he had a lot of photos of his family and him hunting,” Gatewood said. “His classroom has a lot of mementoes, and having to go into his classroom is really tough.”
A school memorial service will be planned, but school officials are waiting for the family to make funeral arrangements, she said.
Gatewood said Beggerly’s death is one of the hardest situations she has encountered in her eight years as a school counselor.
“The only thing harder was about four years ago — the death of a student right before graduation,” she said.
Gatewood compared the tragedies with a different type of tragedy — when Ashley Freeman and Laurie Bible disappeared nearly 10 years ago. The two teenagers, best friends, attended Blue Jacket and Welch schools. They disappeared Dec. 30, 1999, when Freeman’s parents were found shot to death in the charred ruins of the family’s mobile home.
Neither teenager has been seen since.
“The difference is we know what happened to Mr. Beggerly,” Gatewood said. “Also, most of the students know about the girls from what they have heard or read,” not from a personal relationship.