Mention Elaine Shewmake’s name, and everybody says about the same thing.
“Elaine was a special person,” said Walter Resa, who had Shewmake as his assistant girls basketball coach at Webb City. “She was a great role model for all her athletes and students she saw on a daily basis. For me, she was a true professional with great morals and very loyal to everybody. Elaine was a mentor, colleague and most of all a true friend.”
“She’s a very special lady. She’s a big part of a lot of special moments in my life,” said LaDonna Wilson McClain, former basketball player and coach at McDonald County High School. “She was the mom figure even though she wasn’t a whole lot older than we were. She had a very gentle spirit. I don’t know if I ever heard her say a cross word to anybody, but at the same time you knew when she spoke, she meant business.”
“Elaine was a doer,” former McDonald County coach Jerry Davis said. “She could do about anything. She was a super person and a tremendous assistant for me all those years we were together. She will be missed.”
“This was my very first volleyball mentor,” former Webb City and Carl Junction coach Sarah Wall posted on Facebook. “I could never equal her. The most wonderful, Godly volleyball coach I have ever known. God bless all her family. My heart is broken, but I know Elaine Shewmake is sitting right next to our Heavenly Father.”
Shewmake, obviously popular among her fellow coaches and players, died of cancer last Tuesday just over a month shy of her 62nd birthday.
Shewmake started her teaching and coaching career at McDonald County in the late 1970s. She was Davis’ assistant in basketball all eight years, including those glory years from 1980-83 when the Mustangs won four district titles and reached the state championship game three times, winning in 1981 and 1983 and losing by one point to Visitation Academy in 1980.
“We had a special thing at McDonald County, and she was a big part of that,” said McClain, who was one of the three “triplets” along with Suzanne Nyander Sutton and Sue Thomas Buttram on those teams. “She and Buck (Shewmake, her husband) both ... he was always driving our bus. I still have a picture that he drew of me from a photo. It’s the neatest thing ever. They were a big part of my high school years.
“She and Coach Davis worked well together. He got pretty fired up and excited, and she was the calming force behind that. I loved playing for both of them. They were both good people, not just about the coaching. It was about kids and about relationships and about making other people better people. They were teaching you life skills, not just basketball skills.”
Davis had a simple explanation why they worked so well together.
“I think it was because of how good of a person she was,” he said. “We had a bunch of great kids, and she was great with them. Any problems that we had come up with the kids, I felt she could talk to them better than I could. It seemed like we were able to communicate and got along well right from the start. She wanted to learn all she could. She cut my workload about in half.”
After eight years at McDonald County, Shewmake was hired by Webb City High School, her alma mater. She was head volleyball coach for a time — the last three years was when Wall was her assistant — but most of the time she was a girls basketball assistant.
“I first started knowing Elaine when I was teaching PE,” Resa said. “Elaine and I were the only PE teachers K-through-6 at Webb City my first year. She taught me a lot of things on the physical education side and later was an assistant coach for me in basketball.
“She loved the kids. She wanted to see them grow in the classroom and on the court that she was coaching. Sometimes she would get on a kid, but she wanted things done right. As long as you do things right, good things are going to happen. That showed in the way she and Buck raised two sons (Cole and Stone). They are both solid men now, doing great things with themselves.”
It was rare to see Shewmake without a smile on her face. She seemingly never had a bad day.
“If she ever did, I wasn’t aware of it,” Davis said. “I never could tell if there was anything bad with her. She was just an outstanding person.”
“I don’t ever remember her having a bad day or an ugly incident,” McClain said. “You would think over all the time we spent with her she would, but it just didn’t happen.
“When I had her as a coach and as a PE teacher as well, she helped inspire me to do what I do. I love sports, and I always attributed a lot of my passion about coaching and teaching to her and Coach Davis. They left a lasting impression.
“I know she’s going to be missed tremendously by her family and by a lot of other people, too, that she made feel like family.”
Elaine Shewmake's family will be present for visitation from 4 to 6 p.m. today at First Christian Church, 4th and Pearl in Joplin. A service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the church.