Gene Edward Denman “Coach” completed his earthly walk on June 1, 2023, at the age of 84 years, 6 months, and 20 days. Gene was born in a sharecropper’s cottage north of Grapeland, Texas, on December 12, 1938, to Mada Loye Brown Denman and Aubrey Denman. He weighed “10 plus” pounds on a cotton scale. He grew up eating nuts, and berries from the forest, swimming in a 5 acre lake, and swinging from grapevines with a knife in his mouth. When he was in sixth grade, he played three instruments in the high school band. His uniform was altered three times, the smallest ever in Grapeland history. He was groomed as the future quarterback of the Grapeland Sandies by the football coach, who took him every day following lunch, tossing passes back and forth. Gene tells the story of how at age 11 he could throw a perfect spiral 60 yards!
Alas! That coach’s plans did not work out, for “Papa” Denman moved to Carthage, Texas, in seventh grade, where he excelled in football immediately — but his career as a defensive end came to a sudden halt when it was learned he was too young to compete, according to UIL rules. An appendectomy further set back an athletic lifestyle, as the doctors made him sit out his 8th grade year. In his freshman year he decided on basketball as his sport, mainly to please his mother, but he was terrible at the sport, dribbling with both hands and kicking the ball out of bounds. Coach Tatum was a visionary who had Gene play on the B team first and then the A team the same night to help him catch up with the rest of the team. By his senior year he was a highly sought recruit, and he earned a four-year scholarship to Abilene Christian in 1956.
In 1956 he just happened to meet Jackie Martin at church camp, introduced by Bill Hearn, a preacher who knew them both. Gene and Jackie were the first Mr. and Miss Camp Sunset; they would begin dating at Abilene Christian and marry June 3, 1958, a union that lasted 65 years.
Their first child, David Gene, was born in November 1959, during Gene’s senior year. During that year Gene set a number of records that still remain on the ACU books; he was the first player to score 500 points in a season, back when all baskets counted two points. The fast break executed by the combination of Gene, Buddy Tarver, and Mike Allen was quite notable and recognized by one sportswriter as “good as any in the Southwest Conference.”
Gene went on to coach at Abilene Christian Academy for 2 years, teaching Driver Education (one memorable day he ended up in a lady’s flower bed!) and amassing a 22-6 record in basketball his second year. Following a move to the Dallas area, he taught Driver Education on Channel 13 from the Little Red Schoolhouse and was responsible for the driving skills of hundreds of Dallas ISD students.
He had a second career as Safety Coordinator for Texas Department of Transportation, where he taught dozens more in his safety and driving courses. He retired early, in 1993, using his Dallas ISD and TX DOT years combined to give him the needed time accrued. Gene drove the senior citizens’ bus in DeSoto until Jackie could retire; then he volunteered his services to the Furniture and Food ministries at Central Church of Christ in Cleburne, where they moved in 1998 to retire.
In retirement years Gene supported his wife’s ministries until his health began to decline, requiring them to move to Bristol Park Assisted Living. After 8 months he was moved to the memory care unit, where vascular dementia would eventually prove fatal.
Devoted survivors are his wife, Jackie; five children: David and wife Sandy, of Midlothian; Jill Crook and husband Russell of Cleburne; Don and wife Varina, of Burleson; Judy Edge and husband Mark, of Tyler; and Dan and wife Missy, of The Colony, seventeen grandchildren, and eighteen great-grandchildren. He is also survived by sisters-in-law, Shirley Denman of Tyler, and Elaine Denman of Topeka, Kansas.
Preceding him in death are his parents, Aubrey and Loye Denman, and brothers Harold Floyd Denman, CPA in Tyler, and Darrell Wayne Denman, a preacher of the gospel from Topeka, Kansas.
Pallbearers are grandsons, Alex and Austin Denman, Dene Denman, Ryan Roden, Timothy Edge, and Luke Reeger.
A celebration of Coach Denman’s life will be at Westhill Church of Christ, 1100 Westhill Drive, Cleburne, Texas, 76033, on June 10, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. Visitation will precede the service at 9:00 a.m. Burial will take place at Memory Gardens of the Valley on Hwy 180 West of Weatherford, Texas.
Gene was a faithful member of the Church of Christ, having served as an elder, deacon, Bible Class teacher, Song Director and volunteer with the Furniture and Food Ministry.
The family would like to express sincere thanks to the entire staff at Bristol Park, especially those dedicated servants in the Memory Care Unit: Travis, Tanya, Teagan, Meranda, Katie, Sandra, Amber, Lori Ann, Carmen, and Britney; and those from Gateway Hospice: Britney, Melissa, and Presley.