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Richmond Academy teacher and coach dies during Thanksgiving Day run

Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 8:55 PM
Last updated Friday, Dec. 2, 2011 2:19 AM
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In Room 209 at the Academy of Richmond County, no one dares erase the week-old U.S. history class notes on the blackboard.

Academy of Richmond County teacher Thomas Gamblin was training to run the Grand Canyon with his wife, Suzette.   Special
Academy of Richmond County teacher Thomas Gamblin was training to run the Grand Canyon with his wife, Suzette.

Next to the handwriting of Thomas Gamblin, a student scribbled a goodbye message to the teacher and coach: “Miss you.”

Gamblin, 48, died of a heart attack during a Thanksgiving Day run. The death of the marathon runner and soldier who recently returned from Iraq shocked his wife, two sons, teaching buddies and students.

“I had to walk down the hall and see that he wasn’t there to see that he wasn’t coming back,” said Will Christman, a fellow U.S. history teacher at Richmond Academy.

Students returned to class Monday, many already having heard the news of Gamblin’s death. The teacher’s nameplate had been removed from the classroom door, and substitute teachers prepared lesson plans to pick up where Gamblin left off.

Gamblin was an award-winning cross country coach for the school, and his students’ test scores prove he excelled as an Advanced Placement psychology teacher, Christman said. Since beginning as a student teacher at Richmond Academy in 1996, Gamblin also taught sociology and coached football and swimming.

An Army member since 1983 and a Foreign Security Forces Combat Advisor, Gamblin served in Iraq from fall 2009 to spring 2011. The school saved a teaching spot, and he returned to the classroom in August.

Gamblin turned down recent military promotions to be with his students and sons, Thorn and Austin. Austin is stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., and was scheduled for deployment in early December.

Longtime friend Hal Thom­ason stepped in to teach Gamblin’s classes this week. They rode motorcycles together, shared drinks at Helga’s Pub and Grille, and often discussed teaching and raising teenage boys.

“It was obvious he loved his family. He was a family man. He’d do anything for his kids,” Thomason said.

Gamblin, of North Au­gusta, was training to run down and up the Grand Can­yon from rim to rim, a feat he wanted to try with his wife, Suzette Gamblin, who teaches special education at Cross Creek High School.

“He was in incredible shape. Just an incredibly hard rock,” she said. “All he wanted to do was make me happy, and he did. And his boys … he loved his boys.”

The Gamblins were at a relative’s house in Chi­ca­go for Thanksgiving. He usually ran 10 to 15 miles each day, and the family knew something was wrong when he didn’t return for dinner.

“The heart can only take so much,” said his wife of 18 year. “He was always super-positive. He never let negativity affect him.”

At Richmond Academy, students have personalized two banners hanging in the hallway and cafeteria with goodbye messages.

A memorial service will be at Julian Smith Barbecue Pit from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Comments (7) Add comment
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RunningMan 12/01/11 - 11:02 pm
It seems that he really

It seems that he really enjoyed running, and if you going to go, at least do so doing something you enjoy. God bless the family.

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 12/02/11 - 03:56 am
The third and fourth

The third and fourth sentences in paragraph twelve say it all.

charliemanson 12/02/11 - 03:57 am
Condolences to the family.

Condolences to the family.

augusta citizen
augusta citizen 12/02/11 - 07:37 am
How very sad. Prayers to his

How very sad. Prayers to his family and friends and students.

Riverman1 12/02/11 - 08:01 am
Goodness, what a sad story.

Goodness, what a sad story. He was too young and too positive to die.

faithson 12/02/11 - 10:34 am
Coach Gamblin was a personal

Coach Gamblin was a personal friend to all 4 of my children who graduated from ARC. He was one of those teachers we as parents pray our children will encounter in their High School years. His passing is a shock to to them all. He was a tough nut that always held the respect of his students. ARC has lost a diamond in the ruff. He will be remembered by the many students who loved him as a man of character. He will be sorely missed as an astute teacher and mentor to the young men and women of ARC. May his soul rest in peace and condolences to his family.

Boston93 12/02/11 - 10:56 am
I am not 100% sure (99.5%),

I am not 100% sure (99.5%), but think that Tom & Suzette were members or associated with the Augusta Striders during my 6 years as President. I remember Tom as a runner that done 50-100 mile runs also. Both were great individuals and I enjoyed training runs (behind them) with them on several occasions. My heart goes out to Suzette and the boys. I no longer am a runner due to health problems (not running related) and God Bless Tom in that he went to heaven doing what he liked 3rd to his sons 2nd and wife Suzette 1st .

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