From his boyhood in the Democratic Republic of Congo until earlier his month, joy radiated from Edrick Zanga as he ran in pursuit of the ball on a soccer pitch.
“That was his passion,” said his wife, Chanda Zanga.
A health industry accountant, human rights activist and father of four, Edrick Zanga was playing indoor soccer in Santa Rosa on Jan. 5 when, well into the game, he told members of his over-30 team he needed a rest. He suffered an apparent heart attack while sitting on the bench and died a short time later despite efforts to revive him. Zanga, who came to the United States in 1992 and since 2000 lived in Santa Rosa, was 52.
He was well known in adult soccer circles in Sonoma County and at the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in Santa Rosa. He worked for several years in payroll and accounting for the regional Sutter system, having started with Marin General Hospital.
Zanga also spoke to students about the bloodshed and widespread abuses and suffering in his homeland in central Africa.
The International Rescue Committee estimates that since 2008, armed conflict in Congo has cost about 5.4 million lives, many from disease and malnutrition.
Zanga’s wife said that in addition to his love for his family and soccer, “he was passionate as well about the world.”
He was born in 1964 in the capital city of Kinshasa.
“His dad was a teacher. His mother was a stay-at-home mom,” Chanda Zanga said. “He liked school a lot. He was one of the standout kids, a very smart kid.”
Edrick Zanga studied in Congo to become an accountant but found no work in his chosen field.
So he sold women’s shoes and saved the money he would need to leave his nation of birth for someplace offering greater opportunity — he envisioned emigrating to South Africa.
Just short of age 30, he left Congo for Botswana, where he applied to a settlement program. It was there he met his future wife.
Unexpectedly, an opportunity arose for them to settle in America. Edrick Zanga left Africa first, in 1992. He arrived in Portland, Maine, and tried to begin a new life there. But he could not tolerate the New England winter.
“He couldn’t stand the cold,” Chanda Zanga said.
He came with a friend to California and found a place to live in San Francisco.
Already speaking Lingala, French and parts of African dialects, he studied English at City College of San Francisco. He wife joined him in San Francisco in 1993.
Zanga worked nights at a gas station while earning a degree in business administration from Golden Gate University.
In 1998, he and Chandra moved from San Francisco to Petaluma. They moved with their growing family to Santa Rosa two years later.
Nearly all the while, Zanga played soccer. He enjoyed pickup games in San Francisco and in Santa Rosa co-founded with some friends from Africa the Safari Football Club.
For several years he played, coached and managed.
Knee problems forced him to take a break for a couple of years, but not long ago he returned to the game and to an over-50 team.