Former Brookland-Cayce football coach, teacher Abby Bray dies

sfretwell@thestate.comMay 17, 2013 

Former Brookland-Cayce High School football coach Abby Bray has died after a short battle with cancer, but to those who knew him, his legacy won’t soon be forgotten.

Bray, a history teacher at Brookland-Cayce and a school alumnus, was remembered Friday as a caring person and a friend.

BC students hung balloons and wore special T-shirts to commemorate Bray during their annual “Battle of the Classes,” which Bray started years ago. The event pits the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes against each other in a series of games.

Brookland-Cayce’s website posted his picture Friday and remembered him with the words “Coach Abby Bray, BC alumni, teacher, coach, athletic director, mentor, friend.” Bray taught at BC for 23 years.

The 56-year-old Bray, who also was a West Columbia City councilman, passed away about 9 p.m. Thursday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, city officials said. He was diagnosed about three weeks ago, and his death stunned those who knew the outgoing Bray.

“Everyone is shocked because it was so soon and so quick,’’ said one of his former students, Casey Jordan Hallman. “You’re talking about an active teacher like this, and I know this is just overwhelming for the high school kids.”

Hallman, who served with Bray on West Columbia City Council, said he was an inspiring teacher who once had his students create a world map on the ceiling of their classroom at Brookland-Cayce.

“It was a memorable teaching tool,” she said.

Bray played football at Brookland Cayce before entering the University of South Carolina after his graduation in 1975. While at USC, Bray became known among students for his boxing prowess as a two-time fraternity boxing champion. He later trained with former world heavy weight champion and South Carolina native Joe Frazier, according to Bray’s obituary.

When he returned to BC as a teacher, Bray also was an assistant football coach. He got the Bearcats’ top job in 2008, serving as head football coach and athletics director until resigning those duties in late 2010.

As he moved away from coaching, Bray took on another interest: city government. He became a member of City Council in 2011. City clerk Mardi Valentino and Mayor Joe Owens said Bray took quickly to the job.

“He was a charming man, very outgoing,” said Valentino, who has been with the city 15 years. “I’ve worked with a lot of different council members, but from the very beginning, he wanted to learn as much as he could so he could be as effective as possible. We are going to miss him greatly.”

Bray is survived by his mother, four children, two grandchildren and three brothers.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday in the cafeteria at Brookland-Cayce High School, 1300 State St. in Cayce. The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Baptist Church, 2003 Charleston Highway in Cayce. The West Columbia Police Department will escort the funeral procession.

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