There was some sad news this week with the passing of long time Newark Memorial High School football coach and Athletic Director Rich Swift. Swift was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last week and passed away just eight days later.
I never had the chance to meet Rich's family, but I got to know Rich well and I'm so happy I did. He was always happy to see me as we chatted about the Cougars' team that year. He was always very professional about returning a call or giving me the help I needed. He was a good guy, someone you felt comfortable talking with and someone who always made you feel important.
Swift dedicated his life to coaching young people and helping them make their lives complete. He was certainly the coach who had many of his athletes come by and say hi, revisiting old times, but Rich was also far more than that. He wanted to make Newark Memorial a better place, to turn it into one of the premier sports high schools in the country.
Coach Swift worked for several years to build a new gymnasium at Newark Memorial. He wheeled and dealed until somehow all the funds were there to build one of the premier facilities for any high school in the nation. To do this at a public school was a miracle. Swift did this with hard work and perseverance and he got it done.
When it opened, Swift gave me a tour of the facility. He beamed with pride as he showed me around giving all the details of what this building would mean to the kids. That week we went on the air and jokingly called it the 'Rich Swift Coliseum.' Right now that name sounds pretty good. I hope Newark Memorial does name that building after Swift. At 60 years old, he died much too young but that building and all he did for his players over the years created quite the legacy in his wake.
Swift was the only football coach at Newark Memorial. For 35 years he led the Newark teams onto the field. Next year, there will be a different coach and it will be sad to see the team take the field without Swift there to lead them.