On the cusp of a new beginning, former Bellevue High School swim coach Andy Hay’s life was cut short after a battle with illness and injury.
Hay, 39, died Monday, his mother Paula Wilkerson said, during a time of year he always enjoyed. The Class 3A SeaKing girls district championships concluded Saturday.
But this year, it wasn’t the water and chlorine Hay was awaiting. He had recently gotten a job back in the financial services industry.
“He had made arrangements to move to California,” Wilkerson said. “His bags were packed. His car was ready to go.”
For much of the last decade, Hay coached the boys and with the girls swimming programs at Bellevue, winning consecutive Class 3A state titles with the boys in 2015–16, and finishing as the runner-up to Bainbridge in 2017.
He still was an assistant coach with Lisa van Loben Sels when the girls team won the first of their back-to-back titles in the fall of 2017.
“He was the epitome. He was a coach,” van Loben Sels said. “It was the one thing year-in and year-out that really lit him up. He liked to see kids develop. He liked to play a role in their lives. He was so understated, yet somehow brought a lot out of them.
“We need coaches like that in sports.”
Hay dealt with illness and pain over the last several years of his life, but he always deflected the attention back to his athletes.
“He just always wanted the best for the team, for the kids,” said Kim Williams, who won seven state titles for Hay and van Loben Sels at Bellevue and last spring completed her collegiate career at Stanford University.
“He was always so jovial. Just a big goof ball guy.”
During the 2015 boys season, Hay coached through the state meet with the aid of a scooter after he broke an ankle. He refused to let the story revolve around himself, not wanting any stories written about his injury.
“He was extremely passionate about it — helping kids,” said Josh Patterson, who coached baseball with Hay over the years at Eastlake, Juanita, and Mercer Island. Hay also coached baseball at Bellevue during the last decade.
“I’ll never forget this one thing,” Patterson said. “One of the years at Juanita, we had three or four guys ineligible to play. Andy, for two weeks, took time off work. He pulled these guys out of class, and tutored them for two, three hours a day.”
Recently, his mother said, the move filled Hay’s thoughts.
The new job was something he could do from behind a desk that would be easier on his body; he’d had two hip-replacement procedures on the same hip. In addition to the job, the move also would put Hay closer to the principles involved in the foundation he ran, named for another former swimmer, Marin Morrison.
Hay coached Morrison as she advanced to the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, before passing away in 2009 to a brain tumor. The foundation was established shortly after Morrison’s death.
“The foundation was the center of Andy’s nonathletic life,” Wilkerson said.
Hay was in the hospital last summer with stomach issues. During that stay, he’d accidentally slipped from a gurney and hurt the same hip that had been replaced and needed a second surgery.
“The man was in severe distress,” Wilkerson said. “He was in such pain.”
His mother said Hay recently had had a bout with pneumonia, that he dealt with bulging vertebrae and broken ribs. Yet, he was looking forward.
Patterson said he had spoken with Hay early Monday before his death.
“He sounded really positive,” Patterson said.
Wilkerson said a Celebration of Life is scheduled for Nov. 23 at a venue to be determined.