Obituaries » Wallace Clayton Gilbert

A celebration of Wally’s life will take place on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg, at 12 p.m. with Pastor Tim Feaser officiating. A live stream of the service will be available for viewing at obituaries.tharpfuneralhome.com. The family will receive friends for one hour prior to the service. 

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Wallace Clayton Gilbert

November 28, 1930 - April 25, 2022

On April 25, 2022 Wallace Clayton Gilbert’s physical life came to an end. Wally passed away comfortably and peacefully.

Wally was born the youngest of six children on November 28, 1930 and raised in the foothills of North Carolina in the small town of Rutherfordton. After graduating from R.S. Central High School where he excelled in football and track and field, he attended Lenoir Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. on a football and track scholarship. Wally graduated in 1953 and would later continue his education achieving his Master’s in Education from the University of Lynchburg.

Wally met his future wife, Nancy, at Lenoir Rhyne University and was married in 1953. Wally would always enjoy telling the story of the first time he met Nancy as on that very day, he told his teammates he was going to marry that woman. That marriage lasted for 68 years. In 1953, Wally joined the US Marine Corps and went on to serve his country for 20 years in the Reserves and retired at the rank of Major in 1973. He was very proud of his time in the service as it was very seldom that you would not see Wally wearing his well-worn USMC cap.

One of Wally’s college teammates came to Lynchburg in 1955 to help with the football team at E.C. Glass, and in February of 1956 he convinced Wally to come to Lynchburg to help with the team. Wally and Nancy agreed to come in February, but he only originally planned to stay until June of that year. He became entrenched in Lynchburg with the sports programs and ended up teaching and coaching at both E.C. Glass and Heritage for a total of 35 years. Wally coached at E.C. Glass for 20 years alongside Vince Bradford, Johnny Palmer, Jimmy Green, Otis Tucker, and Bo Henson just to name a few. In 2015, some of that same staff from E.C. Glass who coached football from 1971-1976 was awarded the Distinguished Merit Citation from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities for their efforts in the years immediately after the integration of the Lynchburg City Schools in bringing the team and community together.

In 1976, E.C Glass was split into two schools and after 20 years as an assistant, Wally Gilbert became the head track and cross-country coach at Heritage High School where his legacy was continued. From 1976 until his retirement in 1991 Wally took this new school and made them into a powerhouse in track and field. His Pioneer teams, along with his fellow coaches, Roger Jones and Rufus Knight, won eight Western District titles, four Northwest Region titles, two State runner-up finishes and two State championships. Wally truly enjoyed working with the young men and women and seeing them develop to their full potential, not only in high school, but in life as well. He was quoted in a previous article saying, “It’s important in seeing them mature and seeing them be successful”, “But nothing is more important as some youngsters calling you up and saying I appreciate what you did for me”.

It is said that a good coach can change a game, but a great coach can change a life. Coach Gilbert was indeed a great coach who helped mold and shape many young men and women

Wally received numerous accolades throughout his career including the Walt Cormack Award for Outstanding Contribution and Service to Track and Field in 1984-85, two-time Virginia Coach of the year, the Frank Harvey Award/Outstanding service from Heritage High School 1990. In 2003, Wally was inducted into the Lynchburg Area Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 was inducted into the Heritage High School Hall of Fame.

Wally is survived by his wife, Nancy; children: Debbie (Kevin), Rick (Lil), and Teresa; grandchildren: Jon (Amber), Ross (Rebekah), Justin, Kensey (Ross), and Evan; great-grandchildren: Spencer, Perkins, Adair, Mills, Foster, Addison, Trudie, Clayton, and Wallace. He was predeceased by his parents, Vance Gilbert and Bertha Gilbert; and siblings James, Murleen, Molee, Lillian, and Garland.

Wally was a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The family would like to express their thanks for the care and love given by the staff at Runk and Pratt Pearls of Life in Lynchburg, Va.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that those wishing to honor Wally’s memory do so by considering donating to either the Wally Gilbert Fund (Scholarship) at the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation that was previously set up to provide scholarships for Senior Athletes at Heritage High School or Alzheimer Foundation of America.

A celebration of Wally’s life will take place on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg, at 12 p.m. with Pastor Tim Feaser officiating. A live stream of the service will be available for viewing at obituaries.tharpfuneralhome.com. The family will receive friends for one hour prior to the service.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.

Condolences & Tributes

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To Nancy and the extended Gilbert family, I send my deepest condolences. I loved Wally (although I could never quite bring myself to call him that--he was always Coach Gilbert to me). He had many profound gifts. He was a great competitor, he was tough, he was kind, he respected all, but perhaps his most significant was his ability to find, encourage, and bring forth the best in those he taught, coached, and influenced. In football, in track, and in life I always knew he was in my corner. It didn't prevent him from kicking my rear end when he needed to, but the criticism came, I knew, from his desire that I do better, be better, and his belief that I could do better. There is no message more powerful for a youngster to hear and know. Blessings on you all.

Posted by Don North on May 6, 2022

I had the unique pleasure of knowing Coach Gilbert as both an athlete on the track when he was starting races, and as a Coach, working closely with him at meets and practices. I will always cherish his sweet demeanor, love for the sport, and respect he gave to everyone he encountered. He was truly a one-of-a-kind. My condolences to the family.

Posted by Keena Schuler Wood on April 28, 2022

I am sorry that I cannot attend Wally's funeral as I am directing a track meet at EC Glass on Saturday. I will miss meeting up with Wally's friends and supporters. Wally lived just around the corner from me and often walked around my neighborhood. Wally and I shared a love for track and field. As the head coach of Heritage, he developed both character and talent in his athletes. I was fortunate to coach with him at EC Glass from 1971-1975. He was a tough old bird with a great sense of humor. A finer man never existed!

Posted by Rod Camden on April 28, 2022

Coach Gilbert had such an impact on mine and my brothers lives! He was small in stature but so big in heart! It was a pleasure and privilege to be coached by him! A man of high integrity and character that impacted so many families in this community ! My thought and prayers are with the whole family!

Posted by Ed Landis on April 28, 2022

I knew Wally through the world of Track and Field. He was so very well respected by his colleagues and athletes. My prayers of comfort are being sent to his family. He will be remembered for all the young people whose lives he touched.

Posted by J.J. Updike on April 28, 2022

I knew Wally through the world of Track and Field. He was so very well respected by his colleagues and athletes. My prayers of comfort are being sent to his family. He will be remembered for all the young people whose lives he touched.

Posted by J.J. Updike on April 28, 2022

I knew Wally through the world of Track and Field. He was so very well respected by his colleagues and athletes. My prayers of comfort are being sent to his family. He will be remembered for all the young people whose lives he touched.

Posted by J.J. Updike on April 28, 2022

So very sorry to hear about the passing of coach Gilbert. My sincere Condolences to Debbie and the entire Gilbert family.

Posted by Jimmy Powell on April 28, 2022

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Gilbert family on the passing of Coach Gilbert. We always enjoyed seeing Coach at the Lynchburg Community Market and catching up about the days spent living on Rhonda Road. Especially enjoyed reminiscing about our times gigging in the creek behind our homes. Condolences to Nancy Debbie Rick and Teresa may Coach RIP. Jeff and Emily Cohen Sunset Beach NC

Posted by Jeff Cohen on April 27, 2022

Nancy and family, my heart grieves with you today in the loss of my friend and colleague. As you know, Wally and I spent many enjoyable years together coaching track at Heritage High School. He had the nicest, most unique personality which transferred to his dedication to enriching the overall development of his athletes. Please know that my wife and I extend to you our deepest condolences and regret that, for health reasons, we will not be able to attend the home going service. God bless you all and take comfort in remembering the wonderful legacy that he leaves behind.

Posted by Rufus Knight on April 27, 2022

You have deepest sympathy. My thoughts and prayers are with you. A very good man!

Posted by Kelly Parnell on April 27, 2022

Coach Gilbert was a wonderful and kind teacher, coach, and guide for so many people. He has stayed with me through all the years. Bob Brickhouse, EC Glass Class of 1962

Posted by Bob Brickhouse on April 27, 2022

Coach Gilbert was a wonderful and kind teacher, coach, and guide for so many people. He has stayed with me through all the years. Bob Brickhouse, EC Glass Class of 1962

Posted by Bob Brickhouse on April 27, 2022

The world lost a good man teacher and coach. It was an honor to be one of your students . Rest in peace Coach Wally Gilbert.

Posted by Robin Nelson Bush on April 27, 2022

The world lost a good man teacher and coach. It was an honor to be one of your students . Rest in peace Coach Wally Gilbert.

Posted by Robin Nelson Bush on April 27, 2022

Nancy, Debbie, Rick, and Teresa: you have a lost a great father, and this community has lost a great teacher, coach, and leader. It was a privilege to work with Wally at both Glass and Heritage. I learned so much about coaching and leading from him. He has left a incredible legacy through those with whom he interacted. Unfortunately, Jackie is in Arizona and will not be back until the first of the week, and I am out of town until Sunday. While neither of us will be able to be physically present for the service, please know that we are with you spirtually and emotionally. Wally and your entire family were and are very special to us.

Posted by Roger Jones on April 27, 2022

Coach Gilbert impacted so many of us as students that it remains within all of us today. My condolences and prayers are extended to his family and loved ones.

Posted by Darryl DuBose on April 27, 2022

To the Gilbert Family: Prayers to The Gilbert Family.....Wally will be greatly missed by all who knew him...My wife used to dance with Wally at the Adult Care Center when we would go there to sing with Gary Witt. Wally was always very willing to dance and join in,always smiling...... He would always tell me ..You are a good man and my reply was you are a better man. As a director of the Adult Care Center my most sincere condolences to your family. May GOD Bless you all. Deepest sympathy; George Kolar,Director ACC Lynchburg,Va

Posted by George&Kathy Kolar on April 27, 2022

To The Gilbert Family - Prayers and sympathies to you. Wally touched so many people in such positive ways for a lifetime; his impact on those lives is his legacy.

Posted by Mark Storm on April 26, 2022

Mrs. Gilbert, Debbie, Rick, Teresa and Family; May all of Your Happy Memories carry You all through challenging time. I remember all of the encouragement and advice that "Coach Gilbert", had for all us on the Football Field and Track at EC Glass. He made all of us a better athlete, person and leader. My Prayers are with all of You. Bryan

Posted by Bryan Thomas on April 26, 2022

My sincere & heartfelt condolences to Nancy, Debbie, Rick, Teresa & family and friends of Coach Wally Gilbert. Sadly, Mel Parker

Posted by Mel Parker on April 26, 2022

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