Tim Nobriga, the longest-tenured athletics coach at Santa Rosa Junior College, died Monday, just months from his retirement. He was 60.
A former standout diver on Chico State's national championship team, Nobriga had been a diving coach and swim instructor at SRJC for more than 35 years.
He mentored two state champion divers and helped guide the women's swim and dive team to multiple state championships. In 2009, after the last title, a vanquished swimmer even complained that SRJC divers gave the school an unfair advantage at the combined event, school athletic director James Forkum said.
Flashes of envy aside, Nobriga was loved across the Big Eight conference. At NorCal Relays earlier this month, dozens of coaches and hundreds of swimmers and divers gathered by SRJC's pool deck to hear the retiring coach honored, said Jill McCormick, head coach of SRJC's women's swimming and diving team.
In typical fashion, Nobriga, a man of few words, kept his emotions in check, McCormick said.
"Tim sat there and smiled and didn't take his sunglasses off," she said "I think it was hard for him to receive it because he was a humble guy, but I could also tell he felt good about it."
News of his death struck divers at the school hard, she said. Most had worked with him long before enrolling at SRJC.
"He is Sonoma County diving and has been for years," said McCormick, who first met Nobriga as a pre-teen.
She was then a former gymnast intent on trying diving, but with no skill for it. He encouraged her to get in the pool to compete, she said. McCormick later swam at SRJC while Nobriga coached and then worked with him for the past 11 years.
Despite the grief, the team elected to continue with practice Tuesday, diving on a rainy, stormy day that seemed to mirror the moment, McCormick said
"Tim was a creature of habit," she said. "For us not to practice would have seemed really weird."
He died of an apparent heart attack on the 39th anniversary of meeting his wife, Sue. The pair, both P.E. majors at Chico, met in a kinesiology lab on Valentine's Day 1972, she said. They married four years later.
Beyond diving, her husband loved Nascar and classic cars. On nice day, he'd drive the &‘57 Chevy he had since Chico to SRJC, she said.
The two were retiring at the same time, looking forward to going on cruises, travelling and, as always, going back to Disneyland where the "Disney fanatics" has held season passes since the late 80s. It's just a place to get away, she said.
And he was looking forward to just relaxing.
"He always said the day I retire I'm going to the Hot tub to sit in it for eight hours," she said.
Besides his wife, Nobriga is survived by brother John Nobriga, of Marysville, Wash., brother Daniel Nobriga, from the Redding area, and sister Jolean Burk, also from near Redding.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Daniels Chapel of the Roses, 1225 Sonoma Ave. Santa Rosa.