Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rudy Lugo: Mr. Canoga

Eric Sondheimer writes in today's Los Angeles Times
Rudy Lugo, a teacher who coached football and wrestling at Canoga Park High School for many years, died Tuesday at his home in Canoga Park after a two-year battle with lung cancer. He was 60.

"They called him Mr. Canoga," said history teacher Richard Tibbetts.

Born Nov. 22, 1947, Lugo graduated from Canoga Park High in 1965 and played baseball at what is now Cal State Northridge.

After earning his degree, he returned to Canoga Park High as an assistant coach in 1969 and became a physical education teacher in 1972.

Lugo coached wrestling from 1975 to 1996, and became the head football coach in 1986, giving up the position after the 2006 season because of complications from lung cancer.
Read it all here. And, yes, that history teacher in my little brother.

In the Los Angeles Daily News, which is the San Fernando Valley's newspaper, Ramona Shelburne writes:
Rudy Lugo, the beloved teacher, football and wrestling coach at Canoga Park High, died Tuesday at his home in Canoga Park after a two-year battle with lung cancer. He was 60.

Lugo wore Hunters green nearly his whole life. He grew up around Canoga Park, starred as a football and baseball player there from 1962-65, returned to the sidelines almost as soon as he graduated from San Fernando Valley State (now Cal State Northridge) in 1969 and virtually never left until after the 2006 season, when he handed the program over to current head coach Ivan Moreno and his son Christopher Lugo, who is an assistant.

"He was Mr. Canoga," Canoga Park athletic director Lori Thomas said of Lugo. "He was my teacher, my friend, my colleague. I don't think there's anyone who didn't learn something from Rudy. He fought his cancer like he played his football games, he would never allow a running clock because that meant giving up. And he did the same thing with his cancer, he battled it all the way to the end."

Lugo's teams often took on his personality: Gritty, tough, hard-nosed and fearless. Canoga Park is generally one of the smallest schools in the district, but you'd never know it by the way its football and wrestling teams performed under Lugo. Or, in the tough kids Lugo made a point of trying to turn around.

"He was never afraid of anyone," said Jake Gwin, Canoga Park's boys' soccer coach and a close friend of Lugo's. "He had this great, deep reverberating voice that you'd swear you could still hear in the hallways after he spoke. When he talked to you in a stern voice, it got to your soul. And all those gangsters and hoodlums who heard that voice, man, it got to them because they knew there was a sincerity to it.

"You know, I think Rudy could be the world-record holder in converting gangsters and hoodlums into good, strong young men."
Read it all here, and check out some photos, too. Lori (Giacopuzzi) Thomas is (like Richard and me) also a second generation Hunter, being 2 years ahead of me at our K-12 schools. (Connections, connections, connections.)

A rosary for Coach Rudy Lugo will be held Monday at 7:30 pm Monday; his funeral is Tuesday at 10 am. Both will be at Our Lady Of The Valley Catholic Church in Canoga Park (just a couple blocks up Topanga Canyon from the school).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: The Rudy Lugo Fund, c/o Canoga Park HS Booster Club, 6850 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, CA 91303.

1 comment:

Pol vanRhee said...

Pr. Steve Tibbets,

Sorry to hear about to hear about Coach Lugo. Like many at Canoga, through the years, I had positive experiences with Coach Lugo both when I was at CPHS and after. I remember several times when we were getting the Soccer team together for the first time at the school, how he as a football and wrestling coach, gave great advice to help us get it going.

All through school, although I was not a football player, a wrestler, etc, he was there being a great mentor, friend, teacher, advisor. And later, all grown up, I still got great advice. I didn't get to spend half as much time as I wanted with Nancy and Rudy, but the times I did were amazing. I'm glad that he (and Nancy) were in my life. If only we all could be as impactful as they were.

I strive to be like that everyday.