A legend, an idol, a father figure.
These were the ways Rich Swift was remembered during a memorial service held Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of people, some visiting from out-of-state, crowded the Newark Memorial High School Event Center to celebrate the life of the only head football coach Newark Memorial has known since its inception.
Swift, 60, passed away Feb. 13 of an inoperable brain tumor. And while Swift was a coach, teacher and mentor, his students from over the generations spoke of how he was much more than an educator.
He was "a moral compass" and a shoulder to lean on.
Through their stories, it became clear that Swift cared about his students — even long after they had graduated.
In 2008, Newark Memorial alumnus Drew Stevens tragically lost his 12-year-old son in an accident. Stevens, who graduated in 1982, came downstairs one day to find Swift in his backyard.
"To me, personally, he was altogether something different," Stevens shared at Sunday's memorial service. "It soothed my soul [that he was there]. He was the voice of reason when nothing made sense at all."
Stories of Swift going the extra mile for his students were countless. Speakers shared how Swift would always put his students first and would volunteer his time to tutor them in their academics so they could stay eligible to play in athletics programs.
For Joe Angeja and his wife, Swift did even more.
Angeja told how during his high school years, he and his then-girlfriend learned she was pregnant, and because of this he told Swift he was going to quit his sports team. But Swift would not let him, Angeja said. "He said that's no excuse, get your gear on," Angeja said.
Angeja said the coach even offered a place to stay so that the pair could stay in school.
"He was not just a football coach. ... but a father figure to so many of us here," Angeja said.
Alumna Tonya Huggins also spoke fondly about Swift's love for his students.
"He gave us his heart, his soul, his compassion ... He pushed us to do better," Huggins said. "He is our reliable rock."
And while Swift was definitely a competitor on the field, retired Kennedy High School coach Pete Michaletos shared what Swift really valued in life.
"He had a heart and he loved people," said Michaletos, recalling how Swift visited him early one morning to show him a video he had taken of Michaletos' wife and grandson playing on a football field before a game.
"You can sum up Rich Swift in two words: Newark Memorial," Michaletos said. "He loved Newark Memorial. He loved the people here. He loved the students here."
Swift is survived by his siblings, nieces and nephews and his longtime partner Edna Jones, along with her children and grandchildren.
And despite being an unmarried man, Pastor Ed Moore reminded the community that Swift left a large family behind.
"He had a large family at Newark Memorial," Moore said.
Stevens added, "Unknowingly and humbly, Coach Swift has etched his legacy in the hearts of us all, I love you Coach Swift. Thank you."
What's your favorite memory of Coach Rich Swift? Share them in the comments section below.