Cambrian: Sports

Teammates, coaches recall Dante Garcia’s character

In his first year out for cross country, Dante Garcia became one of the team’s fastest runners in 2015.
In his first year out for cross country, Dante Garcia became one of the team’s fastest runners in 2015.

Dante Garcia, a popular and talented Coast Union student athlete and active member of FFA, died tragically Friday, July 29, in a swimming accident at Nacimiento Lake.

The untimely passing of Dante has his classmates, his teammates, his teachers, family and friends — and his fellow FFA members — in shock, as they begin mourning the loss of this extraordinarily gracious and gifted young man.

A fundraising spaghetti dinner is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10. at the Veterans Memorial Building. It’s drive-through only and a $10 meal.

Dante’s FFA adviser, Darcy Dobrec, called him “quiet but very kindhearted. He was always really good about listening … he was the responsible one.”

At the fair Sunday morning, July 31, Dante’s FFA classmates created a memorial for their fallen friend in the pen where Dante had put his pig on display.

Dobrec arrived to find “about 200 people gathered around Dante’s pig pen with dozens of flowers and cards. All the FFA kids got into his pen and sat with his pig, remembering and telling stories about Dante.”

One of his close friends, Jose Ramirez, said, “There was a group of us, and we never left anyone behind. Dante was different than all of us. Everyone he came across just fell in love with him. He had the biggest heart, and was easily one of the best people I’ve ever met.

“He was really good at soccer,” Ramirez, a soccer teammate recalled. “He always wanted to do his best at everything. He was a really smart person, and everything he did, he put his whole heart into it.

“A friend once told me,” Ramirez continued, “’Your life isn’t measured by years, but by the number of lives you have touched.’ I keep thinking about that, and in that way, Dante was older than most people I know.”

Dante was so talented and such a good leader for the Coast Union soccer team that coach Luis Plasencia said, “We were planning on building a team around him this year. He was going to be a big part of our team. We relied on him. Now our work is going to be, who is going to be our new leader?

“We will definitely encourage all the kids to follow his abilities and skills,” Plasencia said in a phone interview. “He was a kid that anybody would like to have on their team,”

The coach said that if there is a soccer team in heaven, Dante will show his leadership there, too.

“Dante was an exceptional athlete,” Dante’s cross country coach, Ayen Johnson, explained in an email. “He joined cross country late in the season last year and immediately became our second fastest runner.” Dante was an “ideal teammate” Johnson said, because he was respectful to teammates, coaches and the competition he ran against.

He had a “tremendous work ethic and drive,” was “selfless” and had a “strong moral character,” Johnson continued. Both coaches, Johnson and Jim Hurley, had anticipated having Dante for a full cross country season.

“He will be missed,” Johnson said.

Dante played Little League for the Cambria Reds and the Cambria Cardinals. Reds coach Gary Stephenson recalled a game that was tied in the seventh inning with a runner on base and Dante at the plate. Dante got a hit, which drove in the winning run, and “before he fully understood what had happened he was mobbed by teammates.

“When he got to first base and realized he had just won the game for us, the joy on his face was unforgettable,” Stephenson remembered. Years after those experiences, Dante “always took the time to say hi to me. He was friendly and polite and wonderful. And that’s how the whole family is.”

Spaghetti benefit

A spaghetti fundraising dinner for the Dante Garcia family is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street in the West Village. The dinner, served from 4 to 7 p.m., is $10 and will be available in the drive-through format only. Also, a Dante Garcia memorial fund has been established at the Heritage Oaks Bank in Cambria. Details: John MacKinnon, 805-927-3260.