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Wiregrass Ranch teacher, coach Chris Bounnell dies after second day of class

WESLEY CHAPEL — The coffee pot sat empty in the Wiregrass Ranch High teachers' lounge when Jeremy Calzone arrived at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

"I don't ever make coffee. I don't even like coffee," Calzone said. "But I went in and I said, 'I guess I should make coffee.' "

The special education teacher picked up the morning tradition in memory of Chris Bounnell, the longtime teacher and former weightlifting coach who always brewed a pot each morning.

Mr. Bounnell died Tuesday afternoon after suffering an apparent heart attack at school. He was 54.

A science and anatomy/physiology teacher, Mr. Bounnell was playing soccer outside with a handful of Wiregrass Ranch kids when he collapsed. Principal Ray Bonti said an athletic trainer rushed over to provide aid.

Paramedics were summoned, but Mr. Bounnell couldn't be revived.

His daughter, Sydney, began her freshman year at Wiregrass Ranch on Monday. She did not attend classes on Wednesday, but visited the school to collect personal items from her father's office.

"He was the best dad ever. I couldn't ask for a better dad," said Sydney, 14. "He always knew what to say to make me laugh.

"He taught me a lot of things. My dad would not want anyone to be sad. He would want everyone to be happy and remember the good times."

Mr. Bounnell had been looking forward to sharing the Wiregrass Ranch campus with his daughter, said his wife, Diane Bounnell.

"My husband was an incredible man," Mrs. Bounnell said. "I am so grateful for the 20 years we spent together. I loved him very much. He was so proud of our daughter Sydney."

Former Zephyrhills High School athletic director Craig Milburn said Mr. Bounnell's after-school soccer game was a tradition dating back to his days at Zephyrhills, where he taught and coached until moving to Wiregrass Ranch.

"Chris was very well respected amongst his peers and he was also really well-liked by the students," Wiregrass Ranch cross country coach Don Howard said. "Good natured, reached out to the kids he taught in science and anatomy and physiology."

Wiregrass Ranch High teacher Chris Rogers first met Mr. Bounnell as a Zephyrhills student. "He was by far my favorite teacher. He influenced me to be a teacher," Rogers said.

Even after graduating high school, Rogers said, he could count on Mr. Bounnell to check up and make sure everything was going well.

"He was great," Rogers said. "He would always keep you on your toes. He would come at you firing. You'd always have to be alert when you saw him coming, because you always wanted to give him your best."

Calzone remembered Mr. Bounnell for his enthusiasm and energy, whether talking about his favorite Chicago Bears or dealing with students at school.

"The things he taught me in one year just about life, about being passionate and energetic, those are things I will take with me," he said. "I can't remember him taking a day off. And every day he was always into it."

Mr. Bounnell became a Pasco County teacher in 1991, the same year he joined Tom Fisher's football coaching staff as defensive coordinator at Zephyrhills High. In 2000, he and Fisher switched coordinator jobs, with Bounnell calling offensive plays. He resigned in May 2004 to devote more time to his family.

Fisher, who retired after the 2008 season, called Bounnell "probably the ideal assistant coach."

"He was the hardest worker I've ever had," Fisher said. "I'm surprised this happened to him. He was always gung-ho and enthusiastic and in physical shape. I guess you never know."

Bounnell transferred to Wiregrass Ranch High as a teacher when the school opened in 2006, and served as weightlifting coach until 2009.

"He was there in the portables with us," said Bonti, the principal. "Our staff is very upset."

The school brought in counselors for students and had substitutes available Tuesday for teachers who did not feel able to instruct because of their grief.

Update: The funeral for Mr. Bounnell will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Zephyrhills, 38300 Fifth Ave., Zephyrhills. The kitchen at the church will open at 10 a.m. for people who wish to drop off food. Fellowship will follow the service.

>>in remembrance

Chris Bounnell

Born: May 2, 1957

Died: Aug. 23, 2011

Survived by: Wife, Diane; daughter, Sydney; parents Harry and Bonnie Bounnell; sisters Holly Redpath and Sherry Bounnell; grandmother Louise Stewart.

Funeral: The service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Zephyrhills, 38300 Fifth Ave., Zephyrhills. The kitchen at the church will open at 10 a.m. for people who wish to drop off food. Fellowship will follow the service.

Wiregrass Ranch teacher, coach Chris Bounnell dies after second day of class 08/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:42pm]
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