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Crowd attends Ceres High gym dedication
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Over 100 people attended the Phil de la Porte Gymnasium dedication ceremony Saturday morning at Ceres High School, including Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella, and Ceres Unified Superintendent Walt Hanline and board members Yvette Nunes, Mike Welsh and Diane Sol.

Memories were shared, laughs and smiles were generated and tears were shed during the hour-long get together to honor a man who has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to Ceres High School.

“It's more for the family than me,” said Phil, a longtime Ceres High educator, athletic director and coach who retired from teaching last year. “Without them, it wouldn't have happened.”

Phil sat next to his mother Helen Trifaro, son Brian and daughter Danielle. Wife Sandy, a Ceres community activist who battled cancer for seven years, passed away in February.

“It means a lot to have his name up there,” Brian said.

Program speakers included son Brian, close friends and colleagues Joe Cucinella, Gary Smith, Isabell McKay and Glenn Driskell, former players Jeff Burrow, Rick Arnold, Rick Goblirsch, Ivan Clay and Bret Durossette, former student-athlete Vanessa Morris, and Northern California Referees Official Representative Dee Hernandez.

Phil and Joe met at Chapman College in 1962. They worked and coached together at Ceres High. The de la Porte and Cucinella families remain close to this day.

“This is an honor that Phil deserves,” Cucinella said. “The things I have learned from him can't be described. I won't even try.”

Smith was a coach at Ceres High for many years before moving to Sonora.

“There was one thing I learned from Phil that helped me in coaching,” Smith said. “Let them (your players) know you care about them as a person.”

Added Smith: “Phil had his success being he was doing what was right. He wanted to help people. And he was honest about it.”

Burrow played basketball for Phil for four years. He graduated from Ceres High in 1995.

“It's an honor to be here for him today,” he said. “He's definitely deserving.”

Clay, a 1975 Ceres High grad, and Durossette (1986) also played basketball for Phil. Durossette teaches and coaches football at his alma mater.

“I've maintained a relationship with him ever since I left,” Clay said. “He made me a better person.”

Said Bret: “It's a great day for Ceres. I've always tried to be like Phil and I'm proud of that. “He's been leading by example for 30-plus years.”

Ceres High activities director Linda Cooper and teacher and softball coach Mike Corsaut presented an engraved chair to Phil at the end of the memorable event.

De la Porte expressed gratitude before heading to the Dog House for cake.

“Seeing everybody was fun,” he said. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier