On November 13, 2019, the family, friends, community of South Charleston, and numerous individuals throughout the state saw the passing of John Benny Messinger, “Coach Mess.” Coach died of an apparent heart attack while hunting on one of his favorite sights.
Coach Mess was born on August 27, 1953, at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The son of Betty and Richard, “Dick” Messinger. He spent his life in Clarksburg before moving to the Charleston area with his mother and stepfather, Charles Renny Harris. He continued a career in football that began at Clarksburg Victory High School and culminated with being a starting lineman for George Washington High School.
Coach Mess realized his love of coaching and teaching after working as an appraiser for AEP coal mining and later as the owner of Messinger Equipment.
John had always been a supporter of young people, and especially those who faced challenges. This led him to becoming a special education teacher in the Kanawha County School System at both the elementary and high school levels. It was at South Charleston High School where he fell under the wing of head football coach Vernon Redmon whom he succeeded in 2006. John’s interactions and positive influences on athletes and students are evident through the hundreds of social media posts thanking and remembering him for his love and leadership.
He compiled a record of 62-21 that included two AAA football championships, 2008 and 2009. He retired from coaching in 2012, but he did not retire from his love for the people who surrounded him in his life at his weight lifting gym, The Holley Strength System.
Whatever the athletic pursuit, Coach Mess went at it with the persistence, dedication and humor that represented his unique gifts to those who knew him. If you were fortunate to be under his eye while training, practicing, or competing you could expect encouragement dished out with his personal touch of anecdotes and jibes.
A look at his accomplishments in the weight room let you know that this guy knew what he was talking about. Beginning in 1984, John made his impact in power lifting known at the state and national levels. That year he was ranked among the top three power lifters in the state at the 242 lb. class with a three lift high total of 1669 lbs. (squat, deadlift, and bench press). He also competed successfully in the 275 lb. class that year. The following year he competed in the ADFPA National Power Lifting Championships and had a 2nd place finish with a total of 1747 lbs. In 1990, John began competing in the USPF West Virginia championships. He amassed 11 titles in that organization from 1990-2004. Although he officially retired from competitive lifting after 2004, he continued to enter selective meets while turning the bulk of his efforts to training athletes who wanted to enter competitive power lifting. During his time in the sport, John set over 50 West Virginia records in various weight classes and age groups. Among those wins one of his most memorable was the 1996 National Masters Championship where he lifted a 3-weight total of 1725 lbs. in the 40-44 age class/ 275 lbs. body weight.
John was preceded in death by his paternal and maternal grandparents, mother Betty Louis Messinger/Harris, father Richard “Dick” Messinger, stepfather Charles Renny Harris, and many aunts and uncles. He is survived by his loving wife, Andra Jill Morris Messinger, daughters Jordan Bryce Messinger, Uniontown, PA, Ella Morgan Dillon, and son-in-law Jonathan Paul Dillon, Millwood, WV. Also surviving are sister, Kelly Louise Harris of Mesa, Arizona, Charles E. Harris of Charlotte, N.C., and Richard “Rick” Messinger of Elkview, and several nieces and nephews.
As we part ways with you coach, let everyone know that you were truly one of a kind who was and is dearly loved by all who were touched by your kindness, caring, compassion, and understanding.
Family will receive friends at Davis Funeral Home, 124 Olen Thomas Dr., Clarksburg, on Saturday, November 16, 2019 from 1:00 until 7:00 PM and Sunday, November 17, 2019 from 12:00 Noon to time of service at 2:00PM with Pastor DJ Hoff officiating. Interment will follow at Plant Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to Wounded Warrior Project, PO Box 758516, Topeka, Kansas, 66675-8516. Online condolences may be sent to DavisFuneralHomeWV.com. Davis Funeral Home is honored to assist the Messinger family.
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