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OBITUARY- Legendary Former Gahr High Baseball Head Coach Loses Battle With Alzheimer’s

June 22, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Tom Bergeron, who built the Gahr High baseball program to be one of the best in the CIF-Southern Section for over three decades, passed away at his home on June 6 after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s. He was six days shy of his 84th birthday.
During his time at Gahr, Bergeron won 645 games and 21 league titles while seeing half a dozen of his players get to a Major League Baseball team.

In addition, two of his players were members of the USA Olympic team. Bergeron is also in the CIF-Southern Section Hall of Fame.

According to his wife Cathy, early in the morning of June 6, his very best friend’s wife called and said, ‘tell Tom that Bill has been waiting for 10 years in heaven for him’. One hour later, Tom Bergeron opened his eyes after two days of no response. Tom’s son Greg, daughter Renee and Cathy were by his side, holding his hands as he took his last breath.

One of Greg Bergeron’s fondest memories of his father was simply watching him work. He said Tom was constantly trying to improve the people around him, and it didn’t stop with his players. He loved helping and mentoring people.

“He loved his family and sacrificed a lot for us,” said Greg Bergeron. “He was more than just a coach. He was a great teacher, and this was something he took a lot of pride in. When you’re young, you don’t really realize how important your parents are to the people around them. As I’ve gotten older, I have been able to see all the people my dad has had an impact on and that is what made him a legend.”

“The short of it is he gave me the opportunity to go out and do what I always wanted to do at a very young age,” said former Gahr boys basketball head coach Kurt Ruth.

Tom Bergeron last coached at Gahr in 2003 and won a San Gabriel Valley League title for a fifth consecutive season. During his final five seasons with the Gladiators, he went 104-39 overall, 62-13 in league play, advanced to the quarterfinals in 1999 and the semifinals in 2002.

Greg Bergeron said the numbers he put up at Gahr are what made him a special and recognized baseball coach. But beyond that, it’s the relationships with players, students, opposing coaches and colleagues that made him a ‘very special person’. In fact, Gahr’s playing facility is named Tom Bergeron Field.

“As a wife, I just thought he was a passionate teacher and coach,” said Cathy Bergeron. “I thought he was living the life he wanted to live. I am so proud of what he accomplished, but he was such a humble man. I just thought he was living his dream.”

“My dad was a selfless person that always had, and took the time to mentor young teachers, coaches or players,” said Greg Bergeron. “He loved his players and though at times his players may not have known it in the heat of the moment, his players always had a special place in his heart. He deserves to have that field at Gahr named after him. He put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that place and my family thinks it is such a great honor to have the school recognize that. [Current head coach Gerardo] Perez has done a tremendous job of continuing the legacy of my dad in that program and my family appreciates that.”

According to Cathy Bergeron, when Tom started at Gahr, Dr. Hanford Rants, for whom the football stadium is named after, was a role model for him and he believed you modeled what was right. His 645-299-14 coaching record meant different things to different people, she continued, and that he was a smart man who set the bar high.

“Knowing my dad as considered one of the best baseball coaches in the state of California is a great thing,” said Greg Bergeron. “But the thing I admire the most is that I have yet to meet a former coach he coached against to have anything negative to say about him.

There may be some out there somewhere, but I have yet to meet them. When you win 645 games and can’t run across any coaches that he coached against that have anything negative to say about him, that tells you everything you need to know about my dad.”
“People will look at his wins and the success he had as a coach, but the guy was an incredible teacher in the classroom,” said Ruth. “If you talked to his students, he was their favorite teacher. A lot of his students loved him. When I was in college, I would go in after I got out of my class and just sit in his classroom and watch him teach because it was enjoyable the way he interacted with his students. He was a high-level teacher.”

Tom Bergeron went to Gompers Elementary and played baseball at Huntington Park High before going to East Los Angeles Junior College where he played baseball for two years. After that, he transferred to UCLA where he was a second baseman and a team captain. After UCLA, he played semi-pro baseball in Canada.

Prior to his time at Gahr, he coached football, basketball, water polo and junior varsity baseball at one of Gahr’s longtime rival, Warren High. When Gahr opened, Dr. Rants hired him to become the school’s first head baseball coach. Cathy Bergeron states she wants Tom to be remembered as the humble, smart, caring self-made man he was and added that his signature saying was, ‘he who hesitates is lost’.

Married in 1969, Tom Bergeron is survived by his wife Cathy Duda of 53 years, son Greg, daughters Renee and Sheri, his grandchildren Brooks, Natalie and Nicole Bergeron and Justin and Tyler Sather. She added that he was a caring father-in-law to Anne Bergeron and Kyle Sather.

According to Ruth, the family donated Tom Bergeron’s body to an Alzheimer’s foundation so that they could do research on him as part of the process of trying to find a way to hopefully cure the disease. There will be a celebration of Tom Bergeron’s life on July 9 at 11:00 a.m. at the El Dorado Golf Course in Long Beach, with a small reception following.

 

Tom’s obituary will be in the Cerritos News Friday June 24, 2022.

 

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