NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A father and son coaching team at a New Mexico high school have died of COVID, one day apart. It’s even hard to understand how a family and a team can try to understand that. Leonardo Torrez and his son Leonard shared a passion for sports, family and community. Now two parts of the Mesa Vista School community are missing.
Renee Torrez says her husband and father-in-law were inseparable. “They had so much more to do here, but in the end God called them home and called them home together,” Renee said.
Leo was the assistant coach of girls’ volleyball and basketball at Mesa Vista High School north of Espanola. His 37-year-old son Leonard — who played basketball at Mesa Vista 20 years ago — was the head coach of the two teams. “Every time I had a bad workout he would always push and motivate me and he never gave up on me,” said Shanae Silva, a basketball player on the team.
However, when the Torrez family got COVID-19 last month, “it had a different impact on us, we all had it together and of course it ended very tragically for my family,” said Renee.
COVID sent both men to the hospital. Dad died on Tuesday, his son hours later on Wednesday. Now the community remembers how they touched so many lives. “I’ll be honest with you in all my years of coaching and as an administrator, this was probably one of the best hires I’ve ever been a part of,” said Richard Apodaca, the Mesa Vista District Director.
Leonard was also a father of four daughters. Two of them played in his teams this school year. “My father and my grandfather were really my best friends,” said Jaslene Torrez. “They would always motivate you as coaches, as parents, as grandparents. They really cherished every moment. Even the little things.”
The tragedy has hit the close-knit community hard, but people say they will do whatever it takes to honor the two men. “These girls are going to make them proud this year and I’m going to try to make them proud and we have a lot of work to do, a lot of healing to do as a community and as a team,” said Jesse Boies, an assistant coach at Mesa Vista.
“I am just eternally grateful for what the Torezz family has done for me. For pushing to do my best and not give up. They both treated me like family,” said another teammate, Tana Lopez.
Leo’s wife, Roberta, had a message for the basketball team. “Remember, girls, don’t give up because that’s what Coach Torrez doesn’t want you to do, okay? He would want you to fight and keep going and moving and that’s what we’re all going to do.”
Both coaches are vaccinated, a requirement for coaching at Mesa Vista. They had not received their booster injections. The memorial services are still pending. A GoFundMe is set up to help support the Torrez family.