BLACKSHEAR — John J. Stephens, 78, of Blackshear, died late Saturday night, March 14, 2020, in Wayne Memorial Hospital following an extended illness. His parents were the late Mark and Marie Stephens of Adel. Until 1958, Stephens played football and sang in the Waycross schools and moved with his family to Savannah, where he played football and sang, graduating in 1960 from Jenkins High School. After graduation, Stephens received a voice scholarship to Brewton Parker College, where he was elected “Freshman Favorite.” From there, he earned a football scholarship to Troy University in Troy, Ala. Stephens graduated with a B.S. Ed. in English and taught and coached at Ariton High in Ariton, Ala., until moving back to Georgia. Stephens served a coaching and teaching appointment at Coffee High in Douglas before meeting his wife-to-be, Elaine Thomas of Waycross. Following the marriage, the Stephens attended Georgia Southern University, where he earned a master’s degree in administration. Both taught English and coached at Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Claxton High School, Appling County High School in Baxley, Perry High School, and Pierce County High School when he decided to retire. Stephens came out of retirement to coach and teach at Bacon County High School in Alma, and then accepted an offer at Ware County High School after which he retired. He coached wrestling and football while his wife coached the cheerleaders. Survivors include his wife, Elaine; daughter, Katie Stephens Ward and husband Michael of Jesup; son, Mark Stephens and wife Sarah of Glennville; four grandchildren, Carsyn and Collyn Ward of Jesup and Laney and Stone Stephens of Glennville; sister, Mary Stephens Hodges of Rincon; niece and nephews, Christan Hodges Bush (Pete) of Blackshear, Howard Hodges (Laura) of Rincon, and Josh Hodges (Amber) of Rincon; one cousin, Charles Zeigler of Columbia, S.C.; special friends, his teammates from Troy, Laurie Calvin, Sandy Haney, Susan Snead, Wally and Julia Nell Shaw of Perry, Debbie Stinchcomb of Baxley, and Kathy and Ed Deen of Baxley; also, his fellow coaches with whom he maintained close contact with and remained dear to his family. Blessed with amazing musical talent, Stephens served as choir director in numerous churches from Claxton, Baxley, Perry, and Waycross. Locally, he served at Blackshear First United Methodist, Hebardville Baptist and then Hoboken Baptist, where he retired this year. He loved his God, family, choir members, students, and players. Among his hobbies were flowers and his greenhouse, old cars, and gospel music. For many years, Stephens, his wife, and sister sang in a gospel trio. He especially loved staying in touch with former students and athletes. Among his numerous honors are Who’s Who in Georgia, yearbook dedications, Governor’s Proclamation for outstanding coaching success, numerous Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year titles both in football and wrestling, Touchdown Club of Atlanta Coach of the Year, Chaplain’s Leadership Award, and Christian Citizen of the Year. Memorialization is by cremation. Due to the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the advice of health care professionals, the advisement against large gatherings of 50 or more people, and with respect for the health of the community and family, a Celebration of Life will be held in April, with a date and time to be determined. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations made to Hoboken Baptist Church, 4714 W Main St E, Hoboken, GA 31542. Sympathy may be expressed by signing online at Hart Funeral Home of Blackshear is in charge of arrangements.