Former Ceres High School coach Frank Cheek passed away peacefully at the age of 82 on May 30.
Surrounded by family, Frank fell asleep in his chair while watching television.
“I’m not worried about dying,” Cheek said recently while reflecting on his life. “I’m going to a better place. I won’t have any pain. I’ll see some friends. I may see my mother and father. I’m kind of looking forward to it in a way. If I go tonight, don’t weep for me. Say, ‘Hey, he had a great run.’”
Prior to making a name for himself coaching softball and wrestling at Humboldt State for a combined 47 years, Cheek taught physical education and health classes and led multiple sports teams at Ceres High School from 1964-69.
“He was the most competitive and determined person I’ve known in my life."Art MacRae on Frank Cheek
“There was no doubt in my mind he’d go on to be successful,” former Ceres High baseball leader Art McRae said while talking about his colleague of five years and close friend. “He was the most competitive and determined person I’ve known in my life. He had a military background. He was in the Marines. He was like a drill instructor. That’s how he ran his classes and practices and coached. He was intimidating.”
“He was an amazing coach and person,” McRae added. “I got to know him pretty well. His wife (Mary Lou) and my wife (Donna) were good friends. I played basketball and softball with him at the SOS Club. He was very obsessed when it came to winning. He didn’t want to come in second. I wish I spent more time with him over the years.”
Cheek’s coaching brilliance earned him induction into five different Halls of Fame: California Collegiate Athletic Association (2019), Ceres High School (2018), Humboldt State (2013), National Fastpitch Coaches Association (2009) and California Wrestling (2003).
A standout athlete in college, Cheek was inducted into the San Francisco State Hall of Fame (1991). He was a baseball player and wrestler.
Cheek is the all-time winningest coach in Humboldt State history with 1,148 victories in softball and 270 in wrestling.
He coached softball for 25 seasons.
The Lumberjacks won two NCAA Division-II National Championships, six West Region titles and 19 conference crowns under Cheek’s guidance.
He coached wrestling for 22 years.
Fifteen of Cheek’s teams finished ranked in the top 10 in the nation.
He coached over 50 All-Americans and over 155 all-conference honorees during his coaching career.
“I got to know Frank watching college softball,” said former Ceres High School Athletic Director Phil de la Porte said. “My daughter (Danielle) played against his teams when she was at UC Davis and he was at Humboldt State. They were always the top two teams on the West Coast. Kids wanted to play for him because he was a straight shooter. If you asked him a question, he’d give you an answer. You knew where you stood. And the other coaches respected him.”
Cheek led Ceres High’s wrestling program to three straight section titles.
Osvaldo Bertolotti, a 1971 Ceres High grad, wrestled for Cheek during his freshman and sophomore years.
“A lot of people that didn’t know Frank thought he was serious all the time,” he said. “But he was a prankster. He loved life. That’s for darn sure. He was one of a kind. He was just like your dad. He’d do anything for you.”
“His teams were so disciplined and dominant,” McRae said. “The kids loved him. They’d do anything for him. They were very loyal.”
Bertolotti met Cheek for the first time in junior high.
“He said he could make me a state champion,” Bertolotti stated. “I believed him. He was a great motivator. He made you and the teams feel like you were on top of the world. I worked like a dog for him for two years.”
Bertolotti compiled a 55-0 record on his way to claiming 154-pound state, section, sub-section and league crowns during his junior year.
Cheek is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Lou, his daughter Teresa, and his grandson Sean.
A Celebration of Cheek’s Life will be held on June 27 at a site to be determined.