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HAMMOCK: Beloved Brookwood grad, Parkview coach dies

In this 2011 file photo, Ryan Figlestahler is shown with his parents Dave and Ruth Ann. Brookwood grad and Parkview coach Ryan Figlestahler passed away this week after a lengthy battle with a brain cancer.

In this 2011 file photo, Ryan Figlestahler is shown with his parents Dave and Ruth Ann. Brookwood grad and Parkview coach Ryan Figlestahler passed away this week after a lengthy battle with a brain cancer.

FIGLESTAHLER SERVICES

Visitation will be Thursday from 3-9 p.m. with a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. at St. Oliver's Catholic Church in Snellville. Funeral Mass is at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Oliver's Catholic Church.

Maybe large celebrations shined the brightest spotlight on Ryan Figlestahler's personality because, as many have said this week, the kid was the life of the party.

Check out the Brookwood grad's Facebook page and there are no shortage of postings from his many Facebook friends (well over 1,600 at last count) involving wedding receptions and parties. There's one of him sneaking onto the back of the golf cart that carried a good friend and his bride away from their wedding reception. There's another well-circulated shot of the guy known as "Fig," a not exactly svelte former Bronco lineman, doing a split on the dance floor as he points to the camera.

In every photo shared, Figlestahler wore his well-known, huge grin. Wednesday was a day for his friends to share those kinds of memories, still in shock from the news that Fig passed away Tuesday night after battling brain cancer since 2006. He was just 30 and engaged to the love of his life, Ashley Kuhl.

"We lost an amazing man last night but Heaven gained an amazing angel," one Facebook poster wrote.

"You touched more lives in your short life than many of us will touch in our entire lifetime," another said.

I wrote about Figlestahler's teams when he was a high-schooler at Brookwood, where he graduated in 2000, but with so many kids on a high school football team, you can't possibly talk with all of them. Not shockingly, he found a way to meet me and we talked regularly at Gwinnett sporting events for more than a decade.

Figlestahler fought cancer for most of his adult life, but he remained in good spirits throughout the process. He was just 23 when he was first diagnosed with a brain tumor --grade 3 anapestic astrocytoma -- and he battled the malignant growth with great bravery, and amazing positivity, over the years. He put the cancer into remission, but recently began having issues again.

Despite the medical issues, Fig shared his humor and guidance with young people. He was a basketball and football coach (he also coached football at Mill Creek) and teacher at Parkview, a Brookwood guy making just as many friends on the other side of the Battle of Five Forks Trickum.

The Daily Post did a holiday story on Fig and his family back in 2011 (HERE), centering on both he and his father fighting cancer simultaneously. At the time, he said, "we're not going to let cancer define us."

While it didn't define him, the way he handled his own cancer fight was an inspiration to his friends that will never be forgotten. When he was going through his own rough times, he always found a way to pep others up.

That will be an enduring memory of Fig, but his friends also won't forget the fun-loving side. The guy who chatted up everyone and made everyone feel included. The guy who lists his Facebook residence as St. Petersburg, Russia.

"I'm sure he already has the angels in heaven belly laughing with his unforgettable stories and unique personality just like he did to us here on earth," one Facebook poster wrote.

Fig was certainly one of a kind. His personality will be missed by many, myself included.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.