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WV leaders reaction to death of former WVU head football coach Bill Stewart

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, D-W.Va., issued the following statement upon hearing about the death of former West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart on Monday.

"Coach Stewart brought a new found pride to the Mountaineer faithful as he led the football team in both competition and character," Gov. Tomblin said. "Joanne and I are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Coach Stewart and offer our sympathies to his family. Together, we ask that Mountaineers everywhere keep the Stewart family in your thoughts and prayers during this sad time."

West Virginia University President Jim Clements said Stewart will be "greatly missed."

"Mountaineer nation is truly saddened today to learn of the untimely passing of Coach Bill Stewart. Our hearts go out to the Stewart family and Bill's many friends. He was a compassionate, energetic, and kind person. He loved his family dearly and was extremely community-oriented and very giving of his time."

Former WVU Football Coach Don Nehlen said he was "very saddened."

"I hired Bill in my last year when I was close to retiring. Bill was such a great Mountaineer and a great addition to our staff. It was a terrific hire -- he did a great job not only for me, but for Rich and as a head coach. Bill was such a great husband and a great father. Bill Stewart was a great Mountaineer. My heart goes out to Karen and Blaine."

WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck issued a short statement.

"Coach Stewart was a rock-solid West Virginian and a true Mountaineer. His enthusiasm and passion for his state's flagship University was infectious. We join all Mountaineers in mourning his passing."

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who also was the first female Mountaineer during her time at WVU, posted a response on Twitter.

"Like you I am heart broken about news of Bill Stewart. When he would see me, he would say, 'There's our Mountaineer.' Prayers to his family."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., responded to the news on Twitter first.

"Saddened to hear about passing of former @WestVirginiaU football coach Bill Stewart. My thoughts and prayers are with his family & friends."

He followed up with a longer statement.

"Bill loved West Virginia, and he loved the student-athletes he worked with. My heart aches for his wife, Karen, and their son, Blaine, and we should all keep the Stewart family in our thoughts and prayers."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued the following statement about the passing of Bill Stewart.

"West Virginia truly lost one of its best citizens today, but my friend Bill Stewart leaves behind a lifetime of memories and love for our state," Senator Joe Manchin said. "It has been my privilege to be able to call Bill my friend ever since his days playing ball at Fairmont State. From the moment I met him, I knew that you never had to worry about Bill's enthusiasm; he had enough for all of us.

"Bill was a proud West Virginian in every sense of the word, and he was the best cheerleader this state ever had. For me and Gayle, our hearts go out to Bill's wife, Karen, and his son, Blaine. I hope that they know just how much Bill meant to the people of this state and how much we all will miss him."

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., issued a statement about Stewart, who had been McKinley's friend for years.

"Bill represented the University in the best possible way.  He was a solid individual and a man of true character.  My wife and I were so proud when this New Martinsville native was named head coach of the Mountaineers.  Please join me in praying for his wife, Karen; son, Blaine and their entire family."

Cheryl Jones, director of WVU Children's Hospital and also a friend of the Stewart family also issued a statement.

"Coach Stewart meant the world to all of us at WVU Children's Hospital. He was selfless of his time and always had the children's best interest at heart. He brought himself and the players to visit the kids and families because he wanted to not for show or because he had to. Coach Stewart visited us on scheduled times but also came whenever a child or family requested his presence. He always acted like he knew everyone he came in contact with personally and made every child and adult feel like they were the most special person in the world. He brought the players over before every home game and always stayed longer than expected.  He was a great friend to Children's Hospital and was truly an ambassador between WVU Athletics and WVU Children's Hospital. His strong character, values and kind manner lifted one's spirit. He will be missed by all who knew him and his friends in Children's Hospital. My prayers are with Karen and Blaine during this very difficult time."

WVU Football Coach Dana Holgorsen said he was "shocked and saddened."

"The State of West Virginia, our University and our football program has lost a true Mountaineer who gave his native state university a decade of coaching service and a lifetime of guidance and inspiration to thousands of young men over a 33-year career. Though Coach Stewart achieved many great milestones on the field, we will most remember his kindness and compassion. Our football family expresses our deepest sympathy to Karen, Blaine and the extended Stewart family."

WVU Men's Basketball Coach Bob Huggins also commented on Stewart's death on Twitter.

"My prayers go out to a wonderful man and my friend. We lost a great Mountaineer and a true West Virginian. Coach Stewart, we will miss you."

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., issued a statement as well.

"From New Martinsville to the world stage of the Fiesta Bowl, Bill Stewart was a winner. As importantly, he was equally if not more proud of being a native of the Mountain State. Leave no doubt. No doubt. Coach Stewart was a mentor, a man of character. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also expressed sadness about Stewart's death.

"Always kind and humorous, Bill was a loving husband, father and coach. As a respected West Virginia football coach, Bill touched the lives of hundreds of student athletes. He could not have been nicer to me and my family whenever we cheered on his team at Mountaineer games. He will be truly missed, and our hearts and prayers go to his family.  He will forever be remembered in Mountaineer nation."

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