Thomas Neal Fish, the oldest son of Crawford and Iner Jones Fish, was born September 20, 1929 in the Beaverdam community of Haywood County.
Before beginning first grade, his family moved to the Sandy Mush Community of Buncombe County where he graduated high school. His family moved to the Candler Community where he lived the rest of his life.
In 1951, he was drafted into the army, during the Korean War, training with the 31st Infantry Division, serving with the 4th Division in Germany. After the army, he attended Blanton's Business College and began employment at the American Enka Corporation. He was an employee of Enka for 42 years, retiring in 1991.
He was a faithful member of the Pole Creek Baptist Church, where he served as Royal Ambassador Counselor, Sunday school teacher, choir member, and served on numerous committees.
Affectionately called "Coach", his interest in sports began at an early age. During high school, he played basketball and worked with 6th and 7th graders, teaching fundamentals of the game. While in service, he played softball and basketball on his regiment team.
Upon returning home from service, he began playing on Buncombe County teams as an outstanding batter and pitcher. He became noted for his ability to teach both boys and girls the fundamentals of the games of basketball, baseball, and softball, especially working with pitchers.
His coaching career of 41 years began when he was working with Sam Patton, Enka's Athletic Director, in the youth leagues in basketball and coaching Royal Ambassador Church leagues.
When the Hominy Valley Recreation Park was being built, he helped with the preparation of the fields for play and with the organization of the first leagues.
In 1964, he began coaching Boy's Little League Baseball of Hominy Valley. Coaching simultaneously, he coached 4-A teams for 29 years, Babe Ruth teams for 6 years, and Little League Basketball for 6 years, with his teams becoming winners. During this time, he served as Baseball commissioner of 4-A for 6 years, and on the Board of Directors for 10 years.
In 1995, he began working with the Girls' Fast-Pitch Softball both at Enka Middle School and Enka High School. The highlight of his career was when he led the 1998 Babe Ruth Girl's All-Star Champions (13yrs-15yrs) to the National Tournament in New Orleans, LA and finishing 5th in the nation. The first Hominy Valley team to ever achieve such an honor.
His goal in coaching was to teach players the fundamentals of the game, play by the rules, have good sportsmanship, and be outstanding citizens in the community.
He was a member of the W.N.C. UKC Coonhunter's Association, winning many first place trophies with his registered treeing walker hounds.
He was a generous, unselfish man with a great love for his church, Gospel singing, family and players. He was a bass singer, teaching his family the joy of singing by forming a family singing group. He also was a member of the Backporch Singers, singing four-part harmony and shaped notes.
He is survived by his wife, Reva Blankenship Fish; his brothers and their wives, Allen Fish and April, Raleigh and Nancy Fish, Jerry and Kathleen Fish; brother-in-law Luther Worley; children and spouses: Teresa and Reid Skinner, Lisa and Randy Barts, Thomasine and Wayne White, Larry and Nikki Cable; grandchildren and spouses: Nathaniel and Courtney White, Kimberly Mikula, Tonya and Billy Houston, Sarah White, Karen and Robert Wylie, Dena and Bob Haverland, and William and Amanda Skinner; 14 great grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, Crawford and Iner Fish; brother, Elbert Fish; sisters Fostine Fish and Lucille Worley; son, Ricky Fish; and wives, Sereptha McFee and Anna Fish.
The funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at Pole Creek Baptist Church. The Reverends Dennis Thurman and Nathaniel White will be officiating. Visitation will be held from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on February 15, 2017 at Pole Creek Baptist Church. Burial will follow the service at Pole Creek Church Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Pole Creek Baptist Church Youth Fund, 96 Snow Hill Church Rd., Candler, NC 28715.
Groce Funeral Home on Patton Ave. is assisting the family.