Tom Bequette devoted much of his life to creating winners not only on the softball field, but outside the lines as well.
The softball community lost one of its most dedicated and knowledgeable warriors Sunday night in Richland when Bequette died at Kadlec Medical Center. He was 53.
"A few of them out there can (coach), some of them think they can but shouldn't. He was one I was hoping could do it until the end," said Dave Dickmeier, a friend and former assistant coach. "Tom Bequette was pretty much the guru of women's fastpitch. He pretty much lived and breathed it, and he contributed at multiple levels.
"In cultivating that competitive spirit, he probably did that more effectively with young women than anybody I've seen."
Hermiston athletic director Mike Kay said he met with the team and its coaches to give them the news of their coach's death and provide the opportunity for support from school counselors.
Kay said today's junior varsity softball game against Echo/Stanfield will be moved to Wednesday. The Bulldogs varsity doubleheader at Post Falls, Idaho, on Friday will go off as planned.
Hermiston pitching coach Saul Castro will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis, according to Kay.
"This is a huge loss in the coaching fraternity, when you lose a person with the incredible ability to develop relationships with kids," Kay said. "In my 20-some thing years in athletics, you come across unique individuals who are able to project their passion into what they do."
Bequette coached at Hermiston for eight seasons, from 1999-2006, before coaching for four seasons at Blue Mountain Community College. He led the Bulldogs to five Intermountain Conference championships and eight state appearances.
Four times, Bequette was named the IMC coach of the year and twice was named the statewide 4A coach of the year. In 2002-2003, the Oregon School Activities Association named him the coach of the year for all female athletics.
His success continued at Blue Mountain, where he led the Timberwolves to back-to-back appearances in the NWAACC championship tournament in 2008 and 2009.
But failing health kept him from coming back to BMCC in 2011, and he returned to Hermiston to coach the team as a volunteer.
When Bequette left the Bulldogs in 2006, Ryan Keefauver -- now a football coach at Umatilla -- stepped in as the Hermiston head coach. He still got the benefit of Bequette's helpful hands.
"He and I had a really good relationship," Keefauver said. "We worked together in getting girls from high school into the next level at Blue Mountain."
With a solid program in place, Keefauver guided the Bulldogs into the 2007 Oregon 5A softball state tournament.
"It was not a rebuilding process, because Tom did such a good job," Keefauver said. "He was always interested in what our kids were doing."
Dickmeier said Bequette's coaching didn't stop at the high school level, but branched into the highest levels of Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA). Bequette's teams made seven national appearances at the "A" level and three trips to "Gold" nationals.
"I believe he (coached) to the day he left," Dickmeier said. "That's probably what he wanted more than anything else.
"He left fulfilled in a lot of ways. He fulfilled a lot of people."
He is survived by his wife, Billie, and five children.
A celebration of life service will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at Burns Mortuary Chapel in Hermiston.