BEAUFORT — The East Carteret athletic program and Down East Girls Softball League are mourning the loss of an invaluable member of those organizations.
John Bunting died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19. He was 62.
Bunting filled a number of roles at East.
For the past few years, he kept the scoreboard for the softball team, ran the scoreboard and clock for the basketball team, announced for both squads, and also helped out the football and volleyball teams.
“We’re all just crushed,” East softball coach Doug Garner said. “It’s devastating. He was a jack of all trades. He did a lot for our communities. People just don’t know the void he has left.”
The bus driver shortage in the county led Bunting to take on an even bigger role at the school in the last few years. He drove the bus for the softball team and even volunteered to drive for the volleyball team.
Bunting’s first trip driving the volleyball team came last season with a 142-trip to Perquimans in the second round of the state playoffs.
“Who does that in their right mind for free,” Garner said. “I told him, ‘John, you know you can get paid for that.’ He said, ‘It’s not about the pay. That’s just my way to give back to the community.’ That’s what kind of guy he was. He was always trying to help.”
Bunting even volunteered to drive the regular school bus routes in the mornings and evenings.
Garner planned on holding a memorial Friday night at the softball field, but a rough weather forecast called it off. Plans remain to hold it in the future.
“I want time to cut the field and line it up just like I would for a game, make it look real nice, but it’s been so wet, I haven’t been able to do that,” Garner said. “I can tell you it’s going to be tough that first game back this spring without him.”
Bunting served as the Pastoral Associate for Liturgy and Music at St. Egbert Catholic Church in Morehead City.
He recently was offered a position at a different parish but decided to instead retire.
“From what I understood, he told them he was home,” Garner said. “He didn’t have any family down here – he’s got a couple of siblings in New Jersey where he’s from – and so East Carteret and the Down East Softball League was his family.”
Bunting spent 2007 to 2018 in Fayetteville, serving as the Director of Faith Formation and Pastoral Associate at St. Ann Catholic School, as well as a middle school teacher at St. Ann Catholic School.
His history in this area goes back before that trip west.
More than 30 years ago, he helped Barbara Yeomans start what would become the Down East Girls Softball League.
“As soon as he came back, he started right back with us,” said Justin Parrish, president of the DEGSL. “Since I took over as president three years ago, he’s been my treasurer. He never missed a meeting. I don’t know how he ever managed his schedule. He seemed to be everywhere at one time.”
Bunting also spent many years calling softball games with the Crystal Coast Umpire Association. He announced this past spring he would retire from umpiring, but he didn’t want to leave an open spot behind.
“We were having issues with getting umpires, because it’s a long drive Down East for some people,” Parrish said. “We came together in the summer and decided to start our own umpiring association, so he’s the father of that. He was organizing it, training folks this fall.”
Parrish said Bunting’s shoes will be hard to fill, and though efforts will be made to honor him, it will fall short.
“Whatever we do, it won’t be enough,” he said. “We can’t show enough appreciation for what he’s done. For parts of over 30 years, he’s been instrumental in youth sports down here, and you can’t replace somebody like that.”