MODESTO — Dan Gonsalves, the "Silver Fox" of city high school sports, inspired student-athletes, supervised athletic departments and mentored future coaches for 53 years.
It is believed that no other Stanislaus District coach or official has logged such a body of work. The result is his induction into three halls of fame and a local stadium bearing his name.
Gonsalves' distinguished life came to an end Monday afternoon after a short bout against lymphoma. He was 81.
That Gonsalves was Grace Davis High's first football coach only begins to describe his impact on Modesto sports. He was the city's first wrestling coach, sparking a local passion that continues to this day.
Though he retired in 1996, Gonsalves never left the sports scene. His contributions continued until only two weeks ago. He still attended meetings and spoke to Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco on behalf of the Modesto schools regarding the league realignment negotiations.
"We've seen the passing of a legend," said Don Lanphear, who succeeded Gonsalves as Davis football coach. "He was a fine coach, a pioneer of wrestling locally and a great leader. Everything he did, he did seriously and with purpose."
Gonsalves, raised in Turlock, graduated from Turlock High, Modesto Junior College and San Jose State (ranked fifth in his class of 850). He eventually received his Masters degree in education from Stanford. One of his teammates at San Jose State was the late Bill Walsh.
Not surprisingly, Gonsalves excelled in athletics at all levels and won two Northern California AAU wrestling championships. An Army veteran, he served from 1953-55 in special operations under General Anthony C. McAuliffe, one of the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
Gonsalves taught and coached at Modesto High from 1956 to '61 and then did the same at Davis from '61 to '96.
As a coach, his wrestling teams at Davis and Modesto went 197-77-4 in dual meets. His teams won seven Central California Conference titles and two section championships. He later became a respected wrestling referee.
Along the way, he coached such outstanding athletes as John Azevedo, a two-time state wrestling champion and two-time NCAA champion. He also guided future St. Louis Cardinals star Ray Lankford.
Gonsalves coached football in some capacity for 48 years. He stepped down as Davis coach in 1977 and became athletic director. He eventually supervised all city A.D.'s.
He officiated in the section finals over the years in volleyball, wrestling and softball. He is the only person in section history to have directed, coached and officiated in three different sports in the section finals.
Gonsalves reaped the rewards of his life's work in his later years. The California Coaches Association (1995), California Wrestling (2009) and the Sac-Joaquin Section (2012) all inducted him into their respective halls of fame. Today, teen-aged athletes compete at the Johansen High football stadium named for him.
School officials asked Gonsalves to leave his desk in the Davis gym and take a cubicle in the front office after he became the city schools' A.D. He refused.
"He said, 'If I leave here, I lose the pulse of the people,' " Lanphear recalled.
Gonsalves wrote about his approach to athletics in his résumé that was submitted to the section last year.
"The peaks and valleys are always there. The key is to keep things in perspective, remember moderation, keep a sense of humor, enjoy your athletes and the people you work with," he wrote.
"And remember, it's only a game."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron Agostini via Twitter at modbeesports.com