IU Men's Basketball Mourns Passing of William Gladness, 34
May 22, 2008
Bloomington, Indiana - The Indiana University men's basketball program mourns the passing of former Hoosier William Gladness, 34, who played at Indiana from 1997-99. Gladness was a native of West Memphis, Arkansas and came to IU after playing two seasons at Carl Albert (Oklahoma) State College.
In 65 career games he made 50 starts and averaged 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. He earned his degree in general studies in 1999 and later played in Europe.
Below is a story that was printed in Thursday's Arkansas Democrat.
Friends Say Gladness Made Big Difference In Kids Lives
By Marty Cook, Arkansas Democrat
FAYETTEVILLE -- Amy Craig wants Will Gladness to receive the credit in death he never seemed to care about in life.
Gladness, a former volunteer boys coach at Fayetteville Christian, died suddenly Friday afternoon at Springdale Hospital after being taken to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. Craig, who took Gladness to the hospital, said Gladness, 34, seemed fine until complaining about a headache Thursday night.
Craig said Gladness' death was apparently a bacterial infection made worse because Gladness had his spleen removed after being shot in high school. Gladness' funeral is scheduled for 11: 30 a.m. today at Life Harvester Church in Fayetteville, with burial at noon Friday at Paradise Gardens in Edmondson.
"He did so many things people don't know about," said Craig, who taught alongside Gladness at the Ozark Guidance Center. "Things he did went unnoticed and unheard of. He didn't need to be recognized.
" He was special to so many people. He had a lot of best friends. He could be that to everybody." Doliza Reyes-Bibbs said one of Gladness' last acts was symbolic of what kind of character he had. Reyes-Bibbs said Gladness learned after school Thursday that one of his students would skip the next week of school because his guardian couldn't afford gasoline.
Gladness drove with the guardian to a local gas station and paid $ 50 to fill the car's tank. Less than 24 hours later, Gladness was dead.
"It's absolutely a shock," said Reyes-Bibbs, the director for the Early Childhood Development at the Ozark Guidance Center. "His kids loved and adored him. He's going to be greatly missed. All he wanted to do was help kids." The 6-8 Gladness didn't play high school basketball in West Memphis but became a junior college All-America center at Carl Albert State in Oklahoma. He later played at Indiana for Bob Knight and played professionally in Europe.
He eventually settled in Fort Smith, where he organized an AAU basketball team made up primarily of players who didn't play much, if at all, for their high school teams. He continued that after moving to Northwest Arkansas in 2001 to work at the Ozark Guidance Center, where he taught preschool children with emotional or behavioral problems.
Gladness volunteered to coach Fayetteville Christian this year when Coach Kevin Osnes left to serve a tour of duty in Iraq, but Gladness wasn't certified to coach and the Eagles had to forfeit victories when the Arkansas Activities Association discovered he was coaching during games.
While he lived in Fort Smith, Gladness became good friends with Eric Burnett, now the head coach at Springdale Har-Ber. Burnett said physically imposing Gladness was a low-key coach, not at all like his coach at Indiana.
"I'm kind of a screamer, but he never raised his voice," Burnett said, noting that Gladness ' AAU team was almost totally funded by Gladness himself. "I can't recall once hearing him yell. When you first see him you think, `That's a big ol' guy, I'm scared of him. ' Then you talk to him and realize, `This guy is cool.'" Craig said a William Gladness Memorial Fund has been set up at Arvest Bank, with part of the proceeds going toward keeping his AAU team playing.
"Will is just an unbelievable guy," Burnett said. "He would get a group of kids who wanted to play. A lot of those kids didn't have anything. He made sure those kids were taken care of." Craig was holding Gladness ' hand when he suffered the fatal seizure after undergoing tests at the hospital. Medical personnel attempted to revive him for 45 minutes, but he was pronounced dead less than two hours after being admitted to the hospital.
"His character was like a magnet for his kids, and for the adults," Craig said. "He was a helper. I once told him, `You can't change the world,' and he looked at me and said, `Why not ?' I'm sure he would have if he had long enough." Gladness is survived by three sisters and three brothers.
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