Varsity Kansas

Cancer claims longtime Goddard coach

When the Goddard tennis team finished third in the Class 6A tournament last Saturday, they knew exactly how to celebrate.

They drove to coach John Markham's house and presented him with the trophy.

Mr. Markham died Thursday morning after battling liver cancer for more than two years. He was 53.

Mr. Markham, who was a physical education teacher at Goddard Middle School, is survived by his wife, Tina, son Kyle, daughter Ashley, daughter-in-law Brittany and son-in-law Nick Blasi. His parents are Paul and Annette Markham.

Funeral arrangements have not been set.

"He was very alert on Saturday," Goddard assistant tennis coach Dan Buchanan said."... He was able to congratulate all the girls and talk to them about how much he loved him. They even got coach to smile."

Mr. Markham was diagnosed with liver cancer in late 2006, and the disease took its toll on him, sapping his strength.

Yet it didn't keep him from coaching the program he'd led for 25 years. He remained a part of Lions tennis, even considering attending the Class 6A tournament.

Under Mr. Markham, the Goddard boys won state titles in 2001 and 2002. He consistently had large numbers of athletes out for tennis, often fielding two varsity and two junior varsity teams.

Maize coach John Anderson wasn't surprised by the Lions' finish on Saturday, even though it was his team that won the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I title and the regional they both attended.

"As a competing coach, I could not think we'll be ahead of Goddard at state," Anderson said. "His players always competed hard, and you had to watch out for them."

Tennis meant so much to Mr. Markham, which is probably why he and Anderson weren't immediate friends when Anderson became Maize's coach 14 years ago. Their schools were rivals and they were both trying to win league and regional titles.

But then they became friends, and over the past two years, Anderson saw first-hand what his friend experienced.

"The last two years, he was a trouper," Anderson said."... This summer was probably the first time that he couldn't get out and do what he wanted. But he didn't miss a lot over the two years.

"In August, things were looking real bad. His wife called me, and I went over there. They were thinking it might be the end."

Two weeks later, Anderson hosted a tennis tournament — Mr. Markham was there.

Wichita Collegiate tennis coach Dave Hawley, who knew Mr. Markham for decades, saw the dedication, as well.

"He was the best, just the best," Hawley said. "You know you'd get a fair deal, and he'd promote the game of tennis and promote his kids and high school in the right way.

"He's what every school deserves in any coach. When you think of him, you think of first class in the way he lived his life."