People knew and loved Mark Nigh.
They appreciated the 56-year-old University Place man's dedication to youth sports and mentoring children, admired his work with glass and respected his commitment to family.
When Nigh died Sunday, two days after being hit by a truck while working in downtown Tacoma, the community showed their love for Nigh by raising nearly $20,000 for his family. Then they flooded his family – wife, Mary; sons James, 27, Timothy, 24, and Tony, 21; and daughters Valentina, 9, and Sky, 8 – with prayers, cards and meals.
"He was a second father to a lot of people," Mary Nigh, his wife of 30 years, said Thursday. "He was an awesome husband and father. It’s just the kind of guy he was."
Nigh was revered for myriad reasons but was best known for the 25 years he spent coaching T-ball, football, wrestling and lacrosse.
It started with coaching his sons' teams but even after his boys were grown, Nigh kept volunteering. He enjoyed sports and reveled in being there for kids who needed a little guidance, a little fun, a caring presence.
Winning was never the goal, friends said. Nigh rooted for the underdog and made sure every player got on the field.
“He was the fun-loving coach,” said Kathy Rojas, president of the University Place Lacrosse Club, where Nigh coached for 11 years. "He was truly out there just for the love of the game and the love of the kids.”
In recent years, Tony Nigh joined his father in coaching lacrosse. The duo also managed the Billy Nigh “Passion of the Game” award in honor of Nigh's eldest son, who died in a car accident in 2003 when he was 17.
The award is granted to the player who best demonstrates sportsmanship and acts as a role model for teammates.
Friends described the elder Nigh as funny, generous and warm. They said he had an open-door policy where people were always welcome to drop by for a home-cooked meal or a roof over their head. Nigh liked to cook and often held taco feasts, where he kept shoveling food at people as long as they were willing to eat it.
He also was adept with glass and pottery, something that started when he was young and eventually evolved into a career. Nigh learned the trade in his father's home shop when he was a boy and later turned designing and creating stained glass into a side business.
He worked nearly 15 years at Tacoma-based City Glass & Upholstery, where he installed glass and became known as a “pioneer in the industry,” according to Nigh's boss.
Kurt Schmitz, vice president of the company, said Nigh was his go-to guy when he had questions about glass and drew overwhelmingly positive reviews from customers.
Nigh and his son Tony were delivering glass to the Winthrop Apartments on Commerce Street on May 23 when the accident happened.
Nigh was standing behind their delivery truck when a Jeep Cherokee slammed into him, severing both his legs. Tony Nigh used his belt as a tourniquet to try and stem his father’s bleeding until paramedics arrived.
Nigh died Sunday evening. The driver, Jason Tamayo, was charged Thursday with vehicular homicide.
Mary Nigh opted not to attend his arraignment. Although it deeply pains her, she said she can forgive Tamayo in order to move forward. But she’ll never forget the man who swept her away at a beach party and built a family with her, or the man who took her husband away.
"Of course, I'm angry and hurt. Mark did not deserve that," Mary Nigh said through tears. "I know (the Jeep driver) didn’t mean to do it, but it was a very careless act that has affected so many people."
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653