By Elisabeth Smith

FAIR OAKS (CBS13) — Students and staff at Bella Vista High are mourning the loss of coach Tom Laythe.

The San Juan Unified School District says Laythe passed away on New Year’s Day from coronavirus complications.

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Laythe coached both cross country and track. He was also a substitute teacher. The district says his last interaction with the students was in late November.

Fellow coach Harold Kuphaldt worked with Laythe for the last eight years. He said Laythe had a huge impact on the lives of students inside and outside of the classroom.

“Tom was loved by everyone that ever spent more than a few minutes with him.  He was extremely well read and could find common ground with anyone in order to carry on an intelligent conversation. He loved to laugh and make others laugh,” Kupghaldt said in a statement. “He was deeply committed to seeing kids grow physically, mentally and emotionally. I can’t express to you deeply enough how much I will miss him and I know that everyone involved in the Bella Vista HS track and Cross country community feel the same way!”

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In an announcement to student-athletes, Bella Vista principal Darrin Kitchen said Coach Laythe was a “wonderful man with a kind spirit.”

“I know that he was more than just a coach to you, but also a friend. Coach Laythe had such a positive impact on the lives of many BV student-athletes throughout the years that is difficult to quantify. He was well-liked and well-respected by his peers, the BV staff, and the many student-athletes he worked with in his career,” Principal Kitchen said in a statement.

According to his coaching biography, Laythe also coached at St. Francis and El Camino High School.

Counseling services are available for Bella Vista students.

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