Richard Stevenson Feimster '48 (1921 to 2009)
Submitted by Luther Conger and Franklin Ivey, co-chairs of the Richard S. Feimster Athletic Scholarship Fund
Soon after Coach Feimster was laid to rest, two of his student athlete pallbearers decided on the front lawn of Concord Presbyterian Church that they wanted to create a lasting honor for their coach, teacher, mentor and friend. This tough guy coach with combat experience background and Earl Ruth game ethics had a spirit that motivated him to serve his fellow man and he did so very eloquently with a caring personality. Perhaps a former student who sang the solo at this funeral stated it best when he said Richard Feimster had been a father figure to him during his entire life; he had visited with him many times seeking advice and not once, had he failed him.
Richard Feimster was the youngest of 10 children born and raised in a northwestern Iredell County, North Carolina community known as Scotts. His grandparents donated some of their farmland for the construction of a union school that was named Scotts School.
After his 1939 graduation from Scotts School, he attended Catawba College where he was respectfully known on campus as "Bull" Feimster. While at Catawba, he received the call to service his country in World War II. His military service was with the U.S. Army Combat Engineers from 1943 until his December 1945 discharge. His combat experience was in Northern France, the Ardennes, Rhyneland and Central Europe.
After his military discharge, he returned to Catawba in 1946 and graduated in 1948 with an AB degree in physical education. While a student, he played basketball four years under the coaching and tutelage of Earl Ruth. He was the captain his senior year and was a four-year member of the varsity club. He also coached the Catawba jayvee basketball team during his senior year.
He began a distinguished 32-year career as an educator in Iredell County when he was hired to teach and coach at his alma mater, Scotts High School in the fall of 1948. The custom in those days required a coach to be in charge of all boys' athletics – baseball, basketball, football – and sometimes girls' basketball, so he eventually did it all.
Through the regimentation and experience of his military service and Catawba basketball background, he brought to Scotts High School progressive ideas and concepts about teaching and coaching that were eagerly accepted by his students and athletes. He was a strict disciplinarian, but always fair in his judgments. There was never any doubt about his expectations of each student and athlete in the classroom or in athletic competition.
He drilled into his athletes sound fundamentals that were applicable to each sport and were far advanced of that day. His primary coaching theme in athletics was grounded in the team concept. He expected each athlete to put the team foremost and not self. He did not play favorites, but treated each student and athlete equal regardless of economic background or family status.
When his coaching instructions were not followed properly in practice, he would always say, "Boys, it is to be my way or the highway," and he would point to U.S. Highway 90 that passed in front of the school. His coaching techniques for all three sports placed the Scotts teams' performance far advanced against conference and tournament competition. He never had a losing season in any sport he coached at Scotts High School. There were many conference and tournament champions, plus a multitude of all-conference and all tournament selections. Because of these successes, he was able to assist many athletes in securing college scholarships.
A great tribute to his coaching skills and techniques was the induction of three Scotts High School athletes into three different college or university athletic halls of fame. One each for basketball (Erskine College), baseball (Elon University), and football (Appalachian University). All from a rural Iredell County high school whose average enrollment never exceeded 165 students.
After eight great years at Scotts in 1956, he joined the faculty and coaching staff at Statesville High School where he coached basketball, baseball and football for two years. His ability to develop exceptional athletes continued at Statesville High where another basketball athlete later became an inductee into the Lenoir Rhyne University Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was principal at Mulberry Street Elementary School from 1958 to 1959, and in mid-year of 1959, he became principal at Central School where he served for 10 years. In 1969, he served at North High School as principal for one year. Afterwards, he returned to his home community of Scotts to serve as principal at Scotts Elementary School until his retirement in 1980.
After his retirement, Feimster was elected to serve on the Iredell County Board of Education and chaired that board. He also was appointed and served on the Iredell County Planning Board. He was also a deacon and elder of Concord Presbyterian Church.
Feimster had a special sense of understanding the needs of young people and was continually trying to help them understand life and its problems. He taught students how they must grow-up and accept personal responsibility for their individual actions. Graduation did not end his relationship with students. In later times, there were many requests for personal, fatherly advice about just how to live a decent life, assistance on how to obtain college entrance and employment recommendations.
Following is small sampling of student and professional educator thoughts and expressions about their relationship with Richard Feimster:
Male Educator: "As principal, he was a role model for his teachers by emphasizing how important it was to work hard for the children's welfare and achievement. He encouraged teachers to set goals that put the student first. As a Board of Education member, he fought tirelessly to provide teachers with materials and facilities that were needed to provide all students a good basic education. He had a tremendous influence upon my life. His support and encouragement were major factors in my success as a professional educator. There were many good things to remember about him, but the most valued was his lasting friendship."
Male Student & Coach: "Coach Feimster was a major influence upon the successful work and life habits that I developed thru his classroom teaching and coaching discipline. I wanted to emulate him by becoming a teacher and coach. His encouragement and direction during my adult years allowed me to have 36 successful years of teaching and coaching. He was revered, highly respected and loved by his students, athletes and co-workers."
Female Student Athlete: "Coach Feimster had a major impact upon my life, especially during my youthful, formative years. He taught me more than Civics, History, Health and Basketball. He taught me the things I would need in life to be successful: I must have a game plan, be committed to hard work for achievement, and to have a solid support team of family, friends and coworkers. Through his mentoring, I give him credit for much of my adult success. I cherish the memories of our association and friendship."
Male Fellow Principal: "I knew Richard Feimster before I ever met him. There were a number of students attending Appalachian University from Iredell County and I had heard about him in the dorm rooms, the college bookstore, and on weekend rides home. All of these conversations gave the same description of their teacher and coach. He was described as a gentleman with high expectations of his athletes and students. When I became a teacher/coach in the Iredell County Schools, I was able to observe first-hand the respect this man received as principal from his Central School students, faculty and community. With 36 years as an educator, he continued to serve the community as a member of the Iredell County/Statesville Board of Education and later served as its chairman. He was always seeking the educational improvement of school facilities, the continued personal development of educators and fostering the competitive aptitude of students."
Female Student and Educator: "Richard Feimster was a man with a great spirit and courage. I was hired by Principal Feimster to teach business education at Central High School. My years at Central were some of the most enjoyable and productive as an educator due to his strong supportive and encouraging personality. These traits were instrumental in creating supportive parents, a congenial faculty, eager students and grateful community – all of which are necessary for a positive learning atmosphere. Later, he helped me obtain an advertised position with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Having no personal contacts in Raleigh, he volunteered to be my advocate and through his contacts, I was able to secure the position. In my later years, I have learned of numerous situations of his giving and helping spirit that he gave to others. His legacy lives in the lives he touched through the many years as a giving, caring person and educator."
Male Athlete: "Coach Feimster taught me the value of water. In those days, we were not allowed to have water during practice or a game. Oh, how things have changed."
Male Student and Athlete: "Coach Feimster was a wonderful human being who was always willing to give his time for his graduates who sought his help. He was instrumental in my receipt of an athletic scholarship that gave me the opportunity to earn a college degree. For his help, I have been eternally grateful."
When Catawba College was contacted about establishing an athletic scholarship in Coach Feimster's name, the inquiry was enthusiastically received and a committee was formed to explore ideas on how to raise the funds. From a base of approximately 350 living students at Scotts High School where Coach Feimster taught from 1948 to 1956, one person in each class was chosen to write solicitation letters to classmates. Relatives, friends and educators also contributed. After five months of campaigning, the scholarship was established at Catawba with an astounding number of individuals making contributions. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a deserving Iredell County/Statesville male or female scholar athlete.
Richard Feimster was predeceased by wife Betty Vickery Feimster, a 1943 Catawba alumna. Survivors include his two children, both of whom were also Catawba graduates: son Richard T. Feimster '70 and daughter Dinah Feimster Daniels '75.
"Daddy was proud to be a Catawba graduate," explained Feimster's children. "He valued education and would be so pleased that Catawba students will continue to be helped through this scholarship."
Others wishing to make contribute to the Richard S. Feimster Scholarship Fund may do so by contacting the Development Office at Catawba.