Obituaries » Wallace Clayton Gilbert

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Wallace Clayton Gilbert

November 28, 1930 - April 25, 2022

U.S. Veteran

A celebration of Wally’s life will take place on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg, at 12 p.m. with Pastor Tim Feaser officiating. A live stream of the service will be available for viewing at The family will receive friends for one hour prior to the service. 

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On April 25, 2022 Wallace Clayton Gilbert’s physical life came to an end. Wally passed away comfortably and peacefully.

Wally was born the youngest of six children on November 28, 1930 and raised in the foothills of North Carolina in the small town of Rutherfordton. After graduating from R.S. Central High School where he excelled in football and track and field, he attended Lenoir Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. on a football and track scholarship. Wally graduated in 1953 and would later continue his education achieving his Master’s in Education from the University of Lynchburg.

Wally met his future wife, Nancy, at Lenoir Rhyne University and was married in 1953. Wally would always enjoy telling the story of the first time he met Nancy as on that very day, he told his teammates he was going to marry that woman. That marriage lasted for 68 years. In 1953, Wally joined the US Marine Corps and went on to serve his country for 20 years in the Reserves and retired at the rank of Major in 1973. He was very proud of his time in the service as it was very seldom that you would not see Wally wearing his well-worn USMC cap.

One of Wally’s college teammates came to Lynchburg in 1955 to help with the football team at E.C. Glass, and in February of 1956 he convinced Wally to come to Lynchburg to help with the team. Wally and Nancy agreed to come in February, but he only originally planned to stay until June of that year. He became entrenched in Lynchburg with the sports programs and ended up teaching and coaching at both E.C. Glass and Heritage for a total of 35 years. Wally coached at E.C. Glass for 20 years alongside Vince Bradford, Johnny Palmer, Jimmy Green, Otis Tucker, and Bo Henson just to name a few. In 2015, some of that same staff from E.C. Glass who coached football from 1971-1976 was awarded the Distinguished Merit Citation from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities for their efforts in the years immediately after the integration of the Lynchburg City Schools in bringing the team and community together.

In 1976, E.C Glass was split into two schools and after 20 years as an assistant, Wally Gilbert became the head track and cross-country coach at Heritage High School where his legacy was continued. From 1976 until his retirement in 1991 Wally took this new school and made them into a powerhouse in track and field. His Pioneer teams, along with his fellow coaches, Roger Jones and Rufus Knight, won eight Western District titles, four Northwest Region titles, two State runner-up finishes and two State championships. Wally truly enjoyed working with the young men and women and seeing them develop to their full potential, not only in high school, but in life as well. He was quoted in a previous article saying, “It’s important in seeing them mature and seeing them be successful”, “But nothing is more important as some youngsters calling you up and saying I appreciate what you did for me”.

It is said that a good coach can change a game, but a great coach can change a life. Coach Gilbert was indeed a great coach who helped mold and shape many young men and women

Wally received numerous accolades throughout his career including the Walt Cormack Award for Outstanding Contribution and Service to Track and Field in 1984-85, two-time Virginia Coach of the year, the Frank Harvey Award/Outstanding service from Heritage High School 1990. In 2003, Wally was inducted into the Lynchburg Area Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 was inducted into the Heritage High School Hall of Fame.

Wally is survived by his wife, Nancy; children: Debbie (Kevin), Rick (Lil), and Teresa; grandchildren: Jon (Amber), Ross (Rebekah), Justin, Kensey (Ross), and Evan; great-grandchildren: Spencer, Perkins, Adair, Mills, Foster, Addison, Trudie, Clayton, and Wallace. He was predeceased by his parents, Vance Gilbert and Bertha Gilbert; and siblings James, Murleen, Molee, Lillian, and Garland.

Wally was a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The family would like to express their thanks for the care and love given by the staff at Runk and Pratt Pearls of Life in Lynchburg, Va.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that those wishing to honor Wally’s memory do so by considering donating to either the Wally Gilbert Fund (Scholarship) at the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation that was previously set up to provide scholarships for Senior Athletes at Heritage High School or Alzheimer Foundation of America.

A celebration of Wally’s life will take place on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg, at 12 p.m. with Pastor Tim Feaser officiating. A live stream of the service will be available for viewing at The family will receive friends for one hour prior to the service.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.

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