This is the story no reporter wants to write; the result no desk clerk yearns to hear.
Redlands’ Adrian Cruz, 37, a former area high school basketball player and coach, newspaper desk clerk, and tutoring business owner, died late last month of complications related to the coronavirus.
“This was my nephew … a most excellent man,” Romy Ramirez wrote under a team photo on social media. “He was too good for this world. See you someday baby, then to eternity. Love, Tia.”
Full disclosure: I worked with Adrian in the San Bernardino Sun sports department 2004 through 2009, along with JP Hoornstra, who now covers the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark Garcia and others.
“He was kind-hearted right from the jump,” said former Arroyo Valley football player Garcia who worked as a sports desk clerk with Adrian. “Friday nights could be hectic, but he was always optimistic and happy.”
“Why do you think?” I said.
“I attribute it to his faith,” Garcia said. “It’s not something you want to push on people, but I was pretty close to him. He told me he was a Seventh-Day Adventist and Saturday was the Sabbath and that day was for praying and you weren’t even supposed to turn on your TV.”
Adrian (nickname AC) hailed from a family of five with the children being of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent. His father, Dr. Ernesto Cruz, came to the United States to attend medical school. His mother, Lourdes. emphasized onservative principles and education. Adrian’s siblings were Gabriel (31) and Natalie (21).
“Everything my parents taught us as children really meant a lot to Adrian,” Gabriel said. “His moral compass never wavered.”
Gabriel sent along a “letter to my brother” that speaks of a larger-than-life older brother.
“You were pure,” Garcia wrote. “You were pure in both your actions and your heart. You were a peacemaker and a man of integrity. You will forever dwarf me in character alone and I could never match the love you had for every person you met.”
Adrian was as serious as a tax audit about his brotherly duties. He always watched out for Gabriel and clearly doted on the even younger Natalie.
“He told me how excited he was when she’d have a dance recital and how proud he was of her,” Garcia said.
Riverside’s Dennis Pope is a soccer guy who trained Garcia and Adrian as desk clerks for the San Bernardino Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
“He just cared about people,” Pope said. “He loved coaching and having the kids look up to him, and connecting with them in the 1,000s of ways coaching allows.”
Little wonder Gabriel lists these as Adrian’s greatest accomplishments/mementos:
The section championship Redlands Adventist won in 2011 when Adrian assisted coach Jason Hinkle (Adrian became the head coach in 2012).
His 2011 section championship ring.
Starting a tutoring business.
Helping students of all ages achieve academic success.
There was plenty of fun along the way for Adrian, a University of California, Riverside, graduate and crack intramural basketball player.
While working nights at The Sun and coaching at RAA, Adrian invited Sun staffers to the school for Monday midnight basketball.
“We did it for about 2-3 years and would sometimes play until the sun came up,” Pope said. “I’d come home super sweaty and my wife would say, ‘Oh my God, you’re disgusting.’ But it made working Mondays worth it.”
Pope also took Adrian to his first American rock concert. They saw Steve Malkmus of the Indie rock band Pavement at the Ice House in Pasadena.
“Adrian had a good time,” Pope said with a chuckle. “Malkmus had a gold Les Paul guitar and Adrian went up and touched it. He was standing there with his finger on the guitar until security told him to get the (bleep) out of there.”
Now Adrian can check out Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. And maybe coach a little hoop, too.
John Murphy may be reached at email@example.com