Washburn University calls Anson “Father Figure” after weekend tragedy

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TOPEKA, Kan. --  Alums and athletes at Washburn University are mourning the loss of a friend.

Jefferson County Sheriff's officials confirmed longtime Washburn Baseball Coach Steve Anson died Sunday in a tree-trimming accident, it happened near Anson's home in Grantville, which sits on the Jefferson-Shawnee County line. That's about 30 minutes northeast of the Washburn campus in Topeka.

A spokesperson for Washburn University athletics said Anson went out to trim a tree near his home on Sunday, and he never came home. Captain Randy Cerreno with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office told FOX 4 News early indications are that Anson was struck by a falling tree limb that measured 14 inches in diameter.

Coach Anson's death came as a seismic shock around the campus. He's been part of the athletic department since 1979, and according to the school, was the winningest baseball coach in the MIAA.

"One of the things he provided me was a father figure," Harley Douglas, Washburn Assistant Baseball Coach, said.

For Douglas, wins and losses matter less than lives touched. Douglas is also a former player for the Ichabods baseball program, now coaching at his alma mater. As a player, Douglas says he came from a single-parent home, and Anson filled a void in his life.

"I can't tell you how many weddings he attended, and funerals he attended," Douglas said. "He made a point to get to everybody's. If he was invited, he was going."

Douglas says he'll remember Anson for his infectious smile, as well as the 844 wins he racked up in 34 seasons from the dugout.

"He was just a player's coach," Douglas beamed. "He was the type of guy that every time you had an issue,"

The news stunned Washburn's athletic director, too. Loren Ferre has known Anson since he became the coach's boss in 1996. Ferre said people around campus are having a hard time accepting the news of Anson's death.

"Steve cared about his players," Ferre said. "He cared about them academically. He cared about them after they finished playing for him, and their careers. He stayed in touch with them. He was well-loved by so many."

Most of Washburn's current players are out of town for the summer months. Ferre said the university will take time to mourn before seeking a new coach.

School officials at Washburn University tell FOX 4 News funeral services for coach Anson haven't been arranged yet.

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