Gene Edwards was a certified legend in San Diego coaching circles and had the plaque to prove it, having been inducted by the San Diego Press Club into its Hall of Fame.
But that wasn't the only award or praise earned by Edwards, who died Wednesday from a heart attack in Del Mar.
Edwards, 60, retired at the end of the past school year after teaching for 32 years at La Jolla High. He had been the school's football coach for the past 29 seasons and left behind him the legacy of a winner, not just on the field but in dealing with students.
"In all the years that all of us have worked for him, he's taken care of us, he's taught us and he's brought us along as coaches," said Vicki Eveleth, La Jolla athletic director and volleyball coach. "We are better coaches and people for having known him."
One of those who worked with Edwards at La Jolla was Rick Eveleth, the basketball coach and husband of Vicki.
"I think the thing that Gene was most respected for within the coaching community was his honesty and ethics and the way that he dealt with kids," he said. "It was always in a positive manner. The kids were always able to maximize their potential under Gene."
Edwards was an assistant football coach at La Jolla for two years, then compiled a 137-126-10 record after taking over the program in 1960. He led the Vikings to the San Diego Section finals in 1980 before they lost to Lincoln, 39-22. Rick Eveleth said Edwards often reflected on that game and that having his son, Tom, start at center on that team was one of his most cherished memories.
Although Edwards was known throughout the county as a football coach, he worked with a number of sports. During his career at La Jolla, which began in 1958 after he left Mar Vista, he was baseball and softball coach for five years each and wrestling and golf coach for 12 years each. He was named California golf coach of the year by the California State Coaches Assn. in 1987.
Edwards was honored at the end of the past football season as meritorious coach of the year by the San Diego Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Gene Edwards Memorial Fund, La Jolla High School, 750 Nautilus Street, 92037.
His memorial service will be Monday at 5 p.m. at the La Jolla Presbyterian Church, where he served as a deacon. The church is at 7715 Draper Ave.