CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) -- The South Bay community is mourning the loss of a popular coach and longtime fixture at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista.
Robert Blas coached football and girl’s lacrosse for Eastlake High and also served as an instructional assistant, but for many staff members and students, he was much more than that.
Blas passed away on Feb. 3, and the sudden loss has left the school stunned. Jauhn Hinkle, a photography teacher at Eastlake High, described Blas as “someone the kids could always lean on.”
“He had a way about him that he was an adult and yet a young vibrant presence on campus,” Hinkle told 10News.
Hinkle said he and Blas both started at Eastlake High in 1995, three years after the school first opened its doors.
According to Hinkle, Blas had many different roles around campus. Besides coaching, Blas often did security for the school at various events. He also served as a DJ for faculty parties and was often a chaperone on student trips.
In the 2000s, Blas helped launch the school’s girl’s lacrosse program. He was a big advocate for women’s sports, according to Hinkle.
Out of all his contributions to Eastlake High, Hinkle said the most important was the way Blas made sure students, particularly the special needs students, had memorable experiences at school.
“He wasn’t just a friend; he was a close friend to a lot of people,” said Hinkle.
Longtime friend and co-worker Tony Todd told 10News that Blas was “an astonishing soul who enriched the lives of all he encountered.”
Todd pointed out that Blas was not just there for the students on campus; he often helped students who had graduated with job opportunities and references to help get work experience.
Eastlake High Principal Ricardo Cooke issued this statement regarding Blas' passing: "It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Robert Blas. Mr. Blas has been a Titan for almost 20 years and has had a profound impact on our school culture. He has not only excelled as an instructional aide, but has been an inspirational coach for a variety of sports including Field Hockey, Girls Lacrosse, soccer and football. He also participated in numerous school events such as yearbook and ASB. He loved Eastlake High School and was the consummate team player striving to make our school an amazing place for everyone. The students, parents and staff members of the Eastlake Community refer to Mr. Blas as a kind, positive and supportive educator. No words can express our sorrow for the passing of this true Titan of Eastlake. He will be missed dearly and we will as as a community honor his legacy by continuing his work of making sure that all students feel that they belong to something special at Eastlake High School."
Hinkle told 10News that he was surprised Blas had called for a substitute on Jan. 30 because he was reliable and always filled in for others and never needed someone to fill in for him.
Hinkle said, “He called in Thursday for a sub, so it had to be pretty bad because that guy would come even if he was sick … he didn’t want to leave that hole in people’s lives unless it was a big reason. He must’ve been feeling really bad to call in a sub.”
While the cause of Blas’ death was not officially released, Hinkle said he and others in the Eastlake High community have heard Blas had flu-like symptoms.
“He loved music, he loved kids, he loved sports ... he was a force for good on our campus,” Hinkle said.
"He was passionate about family and friends, and I really don't think he was aware of the impact he had on their lives," said Todd.
On Feb. 7, students will wear black and blue in honor of Blas. The colors signify Blas’ love of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ blue and the Raiders’ black.
Thousands of students will also gather on the campus’ Senior Lawn to take a photo that will be given to Blas’ parents.
Hinkle said Blas was not married and did not have children.
A viewing is scheduled to be held Feb. 19, from 5 p.m.-9 p.m., at Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary (3838 Bonita Canyon Rd.).
The funeral service will be held on Feb. 20 at 10 a.m. at St. Charles Catholic Church (990 Saturn Blvd.).