Jeff Jardine: Becoming beloved requires a lifetime commitment

Loyal "Bud" Castle, during his first year teaching at Sonora High, 1951-52, from the Green & Gold yearbook.
Loyal "Bud" Castle, during his first year teaching at Sonora High, 1951-52, from the Green & Gold yearbook.

When Loyal “Bud” Castle died at 88 last week, Sonora lost an icon.

Castle taught, coached and molded the lives of thousands of students at Sonora High over more than three decades, perpetuating a sense of stability so vital to a small town. He arrived on campus in 1951, just two years before Vernon Dunlavy retired after 36 years as the high school’s principal, father figure and authoritarian. And when Castle stepped down as basketball coach in the mid-1970s, Rick Francis succeeded him and led the program for 37 years.

They represented a generation for the generations: People who stayed in teaching or coaching or both long enough not only to affect lives but also to become beloved. They knew their students because they knew their students’ parents and their parents’ parents.

My dad played on Castle’s first varsity basketball team at Sonora in 1951-52, a team that included Al Hobby, who went on to coach at Modesto Junior College. I played on Castle’s sophomore football team in the fall of 1972.

The Valley and foothills have been blessed by such people. But as time passes and values change, will there be more like them 20, 30, 40 years down the road?

In Modesto, scores of men now in their 70s and early 80s still do things Dick Windemuth’s way. A native of Russia, he came to Modesto and coached baseball for nearly four decades. He set standards. His players lived up to them, and then swore by them the rest of their lives.

“I wouldn’t have graduated (from Modesto High) if it wasn’t for him,” Jim Enochs told The Bee’s Ron Agostini after Windemuth’s death in 1991. Enochs went on to a 44-year career with Modesto City Schools, including 21 as superintendent. “There was no guile in him at all. You knew where you stood. If there were more like him, we could put child psychologists out of business.”

Jerry Streeter, who played on Windemuth’s first team at Modesto High, said the coach’s qualities extended outside the white lines of the baseball diamond.

“He helped people select jobs and schools and make important decisions,” Streeter told The Bee. “So many people went back to him. He had the unique ability to digest things and summarize. He wanted people to do their best.”

The same applied to Frank Mancini, who came to Modesto in 1921 to conduct the Modesto Boys Band and became Modesto’s man of music. He built MoBand into a tradition that continues to this day with the concerts in the Mancini Bowl at Graceada Park, including Thursday night’s season finale. And he conducted the Modesto Symphony Orchestra for 31 years. More important, he taught music literally to thousands of people – a gift they would have for the rest of their lives.

A few years ago, Modestan Doug Erb picked up an old scrapbook at a yard sale in town. A young woman named Donna Shirley had compiled it in 1929 and 1930. She included a tribute to Mancini and his bands, which traveled all over the nation to perform, and the impact they had on the city.

Oakdale’s Dale Clipper and Jack Walker, Davis’ Dan Gonsalves and Downey’s Chuck Hughes all left indelible impressions on their students and players, just as the late Bette Belle Smith embodied Modesto as a citizen, mentor and volunteer, while Marie Gallo and Grace Lieberman have worked tirelessly to promote the arts.

Teaching and coaching, though, have changed over the years. Cities grow, adding more schools that need time to create their own traditions. New campuses offer new opportunities for some teachers and coaches. Consequently, some coaches periodically change jobs, starting anew each time.

Coaches stay on longer in football, basketball and baseball than do those in other sports, according to Will DeBoard, spokesman for the California Interscholastic Federation’s Sac-Joaquin Section. Time demands, family needs and other factors contribute to quick burnouts and short coaching careers.

In April, when Sonora’s Francis announced his retirement after 651 wins and being named to the Central California Coaches Hall of Fame, the same story in The Bee included the departure of another Valley Oak League basketball coach who left after just four seasons. That is far closer to the norm than the 37 years Francis coached, or the 27 seasons Norm Antinetti led Oakdale’s basketball program.

Escalon High’s Mark Loureiro played for his dad, Bob, who coached football at the school for 17 years and baseball for 42. Mark took over the football program in 1989 and is still going strong with 257 career wins.

Likewise, Angelo Naldi went to Livingston High and returned to coach its basketball team, with 33 seasons in the books and counting.

Like Castle and the others, they are ingrained in their respective communities to the point at which they’ve coached, taught and impacted the generations beyond just wins or losses. But will there be many more like them?

Becoming beloved requires a lifetime commitment.