Remembering Ernesto Cruz

In the 15+ years that campus supervisor Ernesto Cruz worked at Paly, he was known on campus as the man on the golf cart, making conversation with every student and teacher he passed by. Many in the Paly community only interacted with him at school, but in reality, his impact on certain members went, and still go, far beyond the campus borders.

Cruz died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Saturday March 19, 2022.

Kelly Swezey (‘10) first met Cruz in 2006 when she joined the varsity soccer team as a freshman, and instantly felt the support from his coaching style. 

“You come in as a freshman and it’s really scary, as you’re not sure what’s going on and you lack confidence,” Swezey said. “Ernesto really put me at ease…I knew he cared about my well-being, but also my development as a soccer player.”

Cruz had no doubt that Swezey’s soccer career would go beyond high school, and she credits Cruz’s coaching to her eventual collegiate career. 

Swezey (left) and former teammate Teresa Noyola (right) with Cruz (middle) (Photo courtesy of Kelly Swezey)

“He told me as a freshman coming in, ‘Jenks, I believe in you. It’s your time to shine.’” Swezey said. “He just trusted me and he encouraged me.”

Inevitably, when she committed to play at the next level, Swezey immediately told Cruz. 

“I accepted a scholarship to play at Santa Clara University and he was the first person I called to share that news,” Swezey said. “He was so excited for me and always rooting for me… I played professionally for three years and every time I signed a contract, I always called up Ernesto.”

Swezey eventually continued her soccer journey by managing a soccer training facility and coaching young girls in Denver, Colorado. Cruz remained a model for what type of leader she wanted to be for her athletes.

“Part of my personal mission in life now is to care for players as passionately and as authentically as Ernesto did,” Swezey said. “His coaching completely shaped my life, helped me grow, and got me to the place that I’m at today. Now I want to pass that on.”

Swezey has no doubt that others were impacted by Cruz’s presence on campus just as she was. 

“You would see Ernesto chatting with everybody, all different types of people,” Swezey said. “It wasn’t just a certain type of student. Everybody was included and just treated with kindness and respect. Regardless of anything else going on in your life, you felt valued, you felt listened to, and you felt respected.”

Swezey and Cruz kept in touch long past the high school years, and beyond the soccer field. Her last conversation with Cruz was at her wedding just a couple of months ago. 

Swezey and Cruz at her wedding last September (Photo courtesy of Kelly Swezey)

“He genuinely smiled and looked at me and said, ‘Kelly, I’m just so happy about where you’ve ended up,’” Swezey said. “He was a part of my journey up until this point, and he was just so happy to see other people happy. It’s so hard to be that selfless, and he really was that type of person.”

As Paly grieves the loss of such an integral part of our community, Cruz will forever be remembered for his kindness towards everyone and uplifting spirit. His legacy will continue to be valued throughout Paly and beyond.