Arkansas City said goodbye to one of its own on the afternoon of June 8.
A funeral for Coach Anthony “Ant” Brantley Jr. filled the Arkansas City High School auditorium to capacity.
Brantley died following the onset of a sudden heart issue and a short stay in a Wichita hospital.
“I imagine you, like I, am in kind of in shock still,” said Pastor Jon Haley. “There are questions that we don’t have answers for and questions that we might not ever have answers for.”
Brantley was just 38 years old when he died of an apparent heart attack.
Love of family and others
Haley, wearing bright white sneakers with his suit, said he was close to Brantley.
“Your interactions with Coach Brantley made you a better person,” Haley said.
“He loved basketball — there’s no question about that — but he loved people.”
Brantley, who worked as a basketball and tennis coach at the high school, cut back on his coaching recently so he could spend more time with his three young children.
Haley made a point to address Brantley’s family in attendance.
“I want you to know your dad was proud of you,” he said to the children. “He was proud of who you are — and he was proud of who you have become.”
Brantley was known for sharing his love of his children with others, whether videos of their most recent accomplishments or photos he had taken with them.
“He deeply loved you, Belena,” Haley said to Brantley’s widow. “He deeply respected you.”
Legacy of shoes and ETP
Brantley was a tall man with a large heart, Haley indicated, and he was a man who lived and loved in the manner to which God called him.
“He was always inviting people to dinner,” Haley said.
It was not unusual for Brantley to pay for shoes for athletes who could not afford to do so themselves.
Mixed in among the flower arrangements that adorned the ACHS stage and Brantley’s casket were three pairs of athletic shoes.
His family wore T-shirts with “ETP” printed on them — an acronym for Embrace The Process, a sort of mantra that he used in his coaching and the name of his business.
Embracing memories of Brantley
Haley continued the theme of “embracing” throughout the service.
The first challenge he posed to those in attendance was to embrace their memories of Brantley.
“(Brantley), for a man, took so many selfies,” Haley said.
Each of those pictures is a memory that can be recalled by others.
“Someday, a memory will surface and it will catch you,” Haley said. “But embrace it.”
Embracing moments, mission
The second challenge was to embrace the moments.
“Even this one,” Haley said.
The third challenge was to embrace Brantley’s mission.
“He struggled to come up with a strategy that would help us win,” Haley said.
But the goal wasn’t necessarily to help the team to win the games.
“It was so that (the students) would win in life,” Haley said.
Embracing the Gospel
The last of Haley’s challenges was to embrace the Gospel.
He shared his favorite memory of Brantley with those gathered.
“It was March 27, 2016,” Haley said.
The pastor had asked his congregation to shut their eyes and pray with him, asking for salvation, should they be ready.
“Brantley looked up at me, above all of the other faces, grinned and nodded,” Haley said. “Because of that decision, I have every confidence that I know exactly where he is at.”
“Knowing what I know about Coach Brantley, this is the best way I know to honor him,” the pastor added, and then asked those assembled to pray with him — and, for those who were ready, to make a commitment to God.