A father and son, a coaching team at a New Mexico high school have died from COVID, a day apart. It’s hard to even comprehend how a family and a team can try to make sense of that. Leonardo Torrez and his son, Leonard shared a passion for sports, family, and community. Now, two pieces of the Mesa Vista School community are missing.
Renee Torrez says her husband and father-in-law were inseparable. “They still had so much more to do here but ultimately God called them home and he 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 was having a bad practice 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 caught COVID-19 last month, “it affected us all differently, we all had it together and obviously, it ended very tragic for my family,” Renee said.
COVID sent both men to the hospital. Dad died Tuesday, his son hours later on Wednesday. Now, the community is remembering how they touched so many lives. “I’ll be honest with you in all my years of coaching and being an administrator this was probably one of the best hires that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Richard Apodaca, the Mesa Vista District principal.
Leonard was also a father to four daughters. Two of them played on his teams this school year. “My dad and my grandpa were really my best friends,” said Jaslene Torrez. “They would always motivate you as coaches, as parents, as grandparents, They really cherished every single moment. Even the little things.”
The tragedy is hitting the tight-knit community hard but people say they will do what it takes to honor the two men. “These girls are going to make them proud this year and I’m going to try and 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’m just forever grateful for what the Torezz family has done for me. For pushing to do my best and not to 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 wouldn’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 were vaccinated, a requirement for coaching at Mesa Vista. They had not received their booster shots. Memorial services are still pending. A GoFundMe has been set up to help support the Torrez family.