Hundreds attend outdoor funeral for Texas emergency chief who died from COVID-19
Bexar County Emergency Management Coordinator Kyle Coleman, 69, served the county for 38 years and is remembered as a local legend
San Antonio Express-News
BEXAR COUNTY, Texas — Bexar County Emergency Management Coordinator Kyle Coleman was eulogized in a stirring outdoor funeral Friday that befitted a local legend.
With social distancing and other health precautions in place, hundreds gathered to honor a native San Antonian who worked for the county for 38 years, leading responses to countless accidents, shootings and natural disasters, then walking away with another one of the captivating stories that he loved to share.
Freeman Coliseum, which had always been the final destination of the horseback trail rides he relished as a trail boss in the lead-up to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, was the setting of his funeral, attended by local officials, emergency responders, friends and family members.
It had only been a few months earlier that Coleman had coordinated the assembly of a drive-through testing site and overflow field hospital facility at the coliseum in preparation for a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Coleman, 69, died July 14 from a heart attack that officials said was triggered by the disease.
“He may have given his life to COVID, but he has saved the life and won the lives of hundreds of other people, because we’ve all taken steps to respect each other, to wear a mask, to stay social distanced, to use sanitation, and little by little, we’re getting whole with that,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said in his eulogy.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Coleman personified the kind of veteran leader who, with a simple glance or a smile, quietly “helps some of us younger folks to know that we’re on the right path, and leading in the right manner.”
“Kyle was just that kind of captain for our team. He is certainly missed already,” Nirenberg said.
Before he began building the county’s emergency management department in 2005, Coleman worked for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. As a sergeant, he led the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office gang unit.
He had numerous notable cases during his years as a deputy sheriff, but perhaps the most memorable event came in 1995, when he rushed into a burning nursing home and saved every resident. He was later awarded the Medal of Valor by the Sheriff’s Office.
He was named emergency management coordinator in 2012.
County Fire Marshal Chris Lopez described Coleman as a “larger than life Texas lawman” who “cast a long shadow” and was humble, dedicated, wise, friendly and stern — but fair.
“If you spent any time around Kyle, you know that everything that he stood for went way deep into his soul,” said Lopez, who touched on Coleman’s storytelling ability — a trait that made him a go-to source for local news reporters.
“He could match you story for story all day long. The only problem is most of the time, his stories ended up being a lot better than ours. He could definitely give excruciating details,” whether recalling a simple traffic stop or a major disaster, Lopez said.
“We love Kyle. He will be missed. He helped to bring more of a family atmosphere to our office,” he added.
The hour-long service also included a rifle salute, flyover of emergency response helicopters, a “final alarm” tribute delivered over emergency radio channels and the playing of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, as his casket was returned to an ambulance for a burial procession.
The burial procession headed out on Interstate 10 toward Brady, a small town about 130 miles northwest of San Antonio. As the ambulance made its way through several counties, emergency responders all along the way helped escort it through their respective counties. Coleman was buried in the cemetery near Brady in the family plot Friday afternoon.
©2020 the San Antonio Express-News