Bill Sapp was a principal in Cheatham County Schools for 30 years, but his death on Oct. 2 brought to light that his influence and love for others reached far beyond the school building.
Originally from Iowa, Sapp moved to Cheatham County in the 1960s. He was the principal at Ashland City Primary School, Ashland City Elementary School and Sycamore Middle School.
Joyce Bell served under Sapp for several years at Ashland City Primary School. Referring to him as “a man after an educator’s own heart,” she said Sapp would get calls in the middle of the night from distraught parents whose children were in some form of trouble, even jail, and Sapp would go meet them.
“Mr. Sapp’s concern went much farther than our campus,” she said.
Judy Bell worked in the school system with Sapp and went to Ashland City United Methodist Church with him. Sapp was a member of the church for 53 years.
Judy Bell said she quickly learned upon joining the district that Sapp was the go-to person for any teacher needing help, and that desire to help those around him found an outlet through the church as well.
“When I arrived in the school district, I quickly heard about how teachers just loved him. If there was a resource someone needed, he would get it for them,” she said.
“At church, he’s one of those people that does the majority of the work but is able to pull other people in to want to help, too. When there’s something that needs to be done, his name would come up. He always had a heart for the elderly people in the church, to make sure they had transportation and food. He was on our committees to help people who didn’t have food, clothes and shelter.
“He was always there to do what he could to help the underserved population and help teachers with the resources they needed.”
Rev. Bobbie Martin, Sapp’s pastor, said Sapp had a longtime involvement with The Gideons International, which distributes Bibles worldwide, and started the church’s Helping Hands ministry to assist area residents with rent and utilities and service projects around their homes.
“He was just so giving,” Martin said. “A lot of people didn’t even know when he was helping others. He was quiet about the gifts and services he gave through God. It was just God and him who did it.”
Rachelle Taylor, the oldest of Sapp’s five children, shared her father’s love for the school system and its children and teachers.
“Daddy always said he would have a goal. He didn’t care how they got to get to the goal, as long as it was an honest day’s work. He didn’t care how you go there so he would give them the options on how to get to the goal, and give them what they needed to get there,” Taylor said.
Sapp’s concern extended to children outside the schools, too. Taylor said her parents opened their home to five foster children, as well as kids with no home or who’d gotten in trouble with the law.
Sapp saw loving children as part of putting his love for God into action, Martin said.
“He had a desire to be Christlike in his service to others and in the way he served his LORD. He knew the Word, and he just had this confidence that whatever happened, God was in control so it would be OK. He had a true love for his community and his church,” Martin said.
Joyce Bell said, “From time to time at faculty or group meetings, which I’ve always remembered to keep our perspective right, he’d say, ‘If you think you can’t be replaced, just stick your hand in a bucket of water, pull it out, and see how big a hole it leaves.’ He said it with humor, but I think losing him has proven that statement to be incorrect. I will miss him as I’m sure all of Cheatham County will. His loss leaves a big hole.”