Long while until Jill refers to Tim in past tense

For eight days the black briefcase sat in the corner of Jill McCormick's office, unopened, untouched. It was Tim Nobriga's. McCormick looked at it, stared at it, thought about it but couldn't open it. She didn't know what would come out. There had to be memories in there.

Little did she know.

"I'm not ready to open it," said SRJC's swim and dive coach last Tuesday. Tim's death on Valentine's Day was still way too fresh, the shock of it still scratching her surface, McCormick was still referring to Nobriga in the present tense. Tim loves his cars. Tim has a dry sense humor. You should see Tim do his belly-flop. It's a scream. The heart attack may have taken Nobriga but it didn't take him from McCormick. She is where she is today because of him.

"The one conversation," McCormick said last Tuesday, "I never had with Tim was asking him how he thought I was doing as coach. That's one conversation I'll never have."

Little did she know.

McCormick, you'd think, would already have known. After she became head coach in 2000, SRJC won four state women's junior college championships. She won California Community College Women's Swim Coach of the Year five times in those 10 years. All-Americans dot her program. Her influence and reputation go deep into this state.

But Nobriga was never one to gush, to throw bouquets of flowering praise. It was his opinion, nonetheless, McCormick wished she had. This was Tim Nobriga, diving coach for SRJC and all of Sonoma County for 37 years. At the memorial last Monday at Daniel's Chapel of the Roses, one verbal bouquet after another thrown his way. And, the people guessed, Nobriga would be looking down from above, embarrassed, hiding behind those damn sunglasses.

"And then I decided I had to open the briefcase," McCormick said Wednesday. She wanted to move on. She wanted to be alone in her office when she did it. But if she were to clench up, maybe it would be best to have someone around. So she asked her assistant swim coach, Tyler Denize, to hang with her.

McCormick took a big gulp of air, opened the briefcase, and immediately saw Nobriga's handwriting. She started crying.

"You know," she said, "you hardly ever see someone's signature anymore. Everything seems to be done on the computer."

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