A local teacher and coach will be greatly missed, but his "legacy of kindness and service" will be kept alive, friends and former colleagues say.
Philip Branson III, 59, who passed away Feb. 2 after a lengthy illness, leaves behind a community of family, friends and children whose lives he touched daily.
"Phil was a generous and giving person who took his responsibilities to the students very seriously," said Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter. "He served many important roles at Riverview Middle School and took great pride in each."
Key among those roles at Riverview was serving as a special education teacher and soccer coach.
"Phil was a great guy. He worked with kids all day and volunteered to help them after school too," said Bill Zadernak, Riverview principal. "There are many children in this county that he has tutored. He will be missed by myself and others."
Children were Branson's driving force, according to Zadernak.
"His passion was kids. He loved his own children and worked with everybody else's," Zadernak said.
"Phil was not of good health for the better part of the last two years, but he never let it slow him down in his pursuit of helping students inside the school and athletes on the playing field."
In addition to coaching at Riverview, he also was known throughout the sports community as a referee for parks and recreation soccer.
"Phil Branson was loved and respected by the entire parks and recreation community," said Lisa Henson, director of the Dawson County department. "He was a critical part of the expansion and growth of many of our programs and his presence will be sorely missed."
According to Porter, Branson was respected for his involvement in the community.
"Since I have known Phil, I have admired him for the way that he loved his family, students and colleagues and he will be greatly missed by all," he said.
Branson also is being remembered by those he met through his own five children.
"Phil was one of the finest men I ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was full of life and brought joy and a smile to your face every time you saw him," said Jed Lacey, head soccer coach at Dawson County High School.
Lacey, who coaches Branson's daughter LauraAnne, said "[Phil] was a true friend and a great role model for the kids in this town."
Those that worked with Branson said that while they lost a friend, his work would not be forgotten or discontinued.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the Branson family during this time of loss and we pray for their comfort and healing," Henson said. "Our community has lost a great man, but the fruits of his labors will endure a lifetime."
According to Porter, the entire county school system "is suffering."
"But we will try to make sure that we keep Phil's legacy of kindness and service alive each day by the way that we work with the students and each other," he said.