Quitman’s first volleyball coach and respected educator Pat Neighbors passed away in her home in Quitman on Jan. 29. She was 82.
Starting at Quitman High School in 1961, Neighbors was a guiding force in building the QISD girls’ athletic program. At the time, tennis was the only competitive sport for Quitman girls.
Neighbors established the volleyball team in the mid-1960s and was head coach from 1967 to 1985. Texas held its first state tournament in 1967, and four years later, Neighbors led her volleyball team to Austin in 1971.
As the only girls’ coach at Quitman from 1961 to the early 70s, she coached volleyball, track, cheerleading, and pep squad for seventh through 12th grades. She also taught all girls P.E, typing and world history classes.
Current QHS head volleyball coach Ashlee Lingo expressed her appreciation for Neighbors’ contributions to the athletic program and the community.
“I am so sad to hear of the passing of Coach Neighbors. She was an amazing lady who loved helping people through education. She held many different titles in the school system. She has done a lot for our community over the years, especially young women,” Lingo said. “She was the first to coach volleyball in Quitman in the 70s. She started something special through this program. I learned a lot growing up in this program, and I know many other young ladies did as well.”
Neighbors was honored for her accomplishments during a Quitman High School volleyball game in August.
“It was amazing to see all the former players and coaches come to show their support. She has left a legacy that we plan to continue to honor,” Lingo said.
Every year, there is a freshman and junior varsity volleyball tournament in her name.
After 24 years, she retired from coaching to focus on counseling students at QISD and Rains ISD.
Neighbors earned a bachelor’s degree from the East Texas State College in 1958. She then continued her education by pursuing a master’s degree and other certifications, including school counseling. Her passions of teaching, counseling and coaching motivated her to improve the lives of numerous students.
Prior to Quitman, her teaching career began at Hawkins ISD.
She was a member of Faith Baptist Church in Quitman, Quitman Pilot Club and Anchors, Autumn Trails Model A Club, East Texas Lazy 8s, Retired Teachers Association, Red Hatters, and Grand Lodge Auxiliary.
Patricia Hightower, a longtime Pilot who served closely on the Youth Division with Neighbors, recalled Neighbors’ passion to improve the lives of children.
“Pat Neighbors was an integral part of our club. She brought such joy to every meeting and task. In particular, she was enthusiastic about anything we did for our youth. Pat stepped up to be one of the Anchor sponsors, which entailed chaperoning the youth during their community work and at convention,” Hightower said. “She was not afraid of hard work if it was for the kids, and she loved every single one of them.”
Because of her commitment to the kids, Neighbors’ favorite quote, “Do unto others at you would have them do unto you,” was used by the Anchors for their club shirts this year.
“There could not have been a better example of a community servant than Pat Neighbors,” Hightower said. “We will miss her as we continue to be inspired by her.”
Neighbors is survived by her husband of 61 years, Lon Neighbors; three children (Elaine, Richard and Kelly); eight grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.