The best way to describe the induction of the latest member to the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame would be “bittersweet.” On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, the late Keith Prater became the newest member of the high school’s Alumni Hall of Fame, honoring him for his service as an educator, coach, mentor and friend. Keith Prater now joins the other ten Hall of Fame members – Jeanette Banks, the late Jeanne Cornett, the late Warren Cooper, the late Zane Collins, the late Daniel Fannin, Nadine Griffith, Virginia Landreth-Etherton, Claudia Hicks, the late SOC Collin Thomas, and Kelly Wells.
Prater was a special education teacher at Rowan County Senior High School as well as the head coach for the high school’s baseball and bowling teams.
Prior to coming to Rowan County, he served as a teacher at Lewis County High School and head coach for the LCHS baseball team.
The final game that he coached, on May 31, 2017, was one that saw Rowan County take the 16th Regional title and move to the state level for the first time since 1983.
Days before the RCSHS baseball team was scheduled to compete in the KHSAA State Baseball Tournament, Prater was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Keith Prater passed away on July 19, 2017, losing his short but valiant battle with leukemia.
The bleachers were filled with family and friends of the Prater family from both Lewis County and Rowan County, places where Keith had served as a teacher and coach. The induction ceremony took place in the Warren C. Cooper Gymnasium between the boys’ Junior Varsity and Varsity basketball games against Lewis County. (Originally the Rowan v. Lewis games were scheduled to be away games, but Lewis County High School graciously agreed to change the schedule to allow the induction ceremony to take place at Rowan County with Lewis County in attendance.)
Standing at attention on both sides of the gym were cheerleaders from both Rowan County and Lewis County High Schools as well as the RCSHS Baseball Team and the RCSHS Bowling Team, both teams which Keith Prater had coached prior to his passing. Misty Prater, Keith’s wife, asked to speak to the crowd where she acknowledged the trials her family has faced after Keith’s passing. She spoke about hearing the Cole Swindell song, “You Should Be Here,” that morning as she was driving to work and realizing that it was saying what she wanted to say to Keith – “You should be here, K.P.”
As the Cole Swindell song played throughout the gymnasium, there was hardly a dry eye in the “house” as those who were familiar with Keith Prater and those who might not have known him understood the meaning behind the words for the Prater family.
Before the induction ceremony, family members and friends of the Hall of Fame award recipients gathered at a reception in the Viking Café. Fellow coaches Shawn Thacker, Kelly Ford, and Rob Ward spoke about their friendship and camaraderie with Keith Prater as well as the respect that they had for him as an educator, a coach and as a family man. Superintendent Marvin Moore spoke about the leadership skills that he tried to instill in his students and his players. The reception was a time for both laughter and tears as everyone remembered the Keith Prater’s gift in working with people.
To be considered a member of the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame, the candidate must exemplify the qualities of irreproachable character and outstanding citizenship. “The impact that Keith Prater had on our students at the high school was tremendous,” said Superintendent Marvin Moore. “The way he led his life modeled leadership and respect, something that we teach our students every day. Having him as a member of the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame is an honor that is well-deserved.”