Gary Cummings gone, but not forgotten

  • Piner coach Gary Cummings with player. Hand out photo

The thing is, Semi Komaisavai's story should have been unusual. It wasn't because Gary Cummings was in the middle of it. And when Gary Cummings decided to be in the middle of something, he made it his. He was always changing the human landscape around him. And no one would object. They wouldn't dare. They were watching the best of themselves in him.

Last fall, Semi and his mom had left Fiji just a year earlier for Santa Rosa. Life can be challenging for an island kid relocating to the massive American sprawl. A wide receiver and defensive back for the Piner varsity football team, Semi was beginning to put down roots, his teammates giving him that sense of community.

But that fall, Semi's mom took a job in Petaluma. He would have to move. He didn't want to go. He was with his buds. The season was around the corner. OK, so don't move, said Cummings, a Piner junior varsity coach. Stay with me during the season. Then you can transfer to Casa Grande.

"I was shocked," Komaisavai said. "We barely knew each other."

From August through October last fall, each day Cummings made Semi breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cummings drove Semi to school, picked up Semi from school, made sure Semi completed his homework. On weekends, Cummings would drop Semi at parties, pick Semi up from those parties, emphasizing it could only happen in an alcohol- and drug-free environment. Not once did Cummings ask for a dime.

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