(East Los Angeles, CA) January 18, 2021 [From the Editor’s Desk): To All of our followers, and especially those from Roosevelt Rough Riders Nation, we are deeply saddened to report that yet another longtime, and dearly beloved high school football coaching legend, Richard “Dickie” Guillen, Sr., has recently passed away. Coach Guillen succumbed to the ravaging COVID-19/Coronavirus on January 5, 2021.
To those who knew Coach Dickie, this story will take you back down Memory Lane. To those who did not know him, we invite you to learn more about our Legend as shared with me by his two children, Virginia, and only son, Richard, Jr. Here is just a brief celebration of his life and the presentation of his story.
He was definitely a man for all seasons, who was greatly and passionately loved, not only by his immediate Family, his wife of five years, Linda, along with his three daughters, Jennifer, Denise, Virginia, his only son, Richard, Jr., from his first wife Virginia, and his only sister, Eleanor, but also by the many thousands of players and their families, who played for him, first, as head coach for the East L.A. Bobcats Pop Warner Team, from 1969 to 1979, then as an Assistant Coach at both Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools, respectively, from 1979 to 2005. Add a brief stint of scouting at East L.A. College with his “compadres,” Al Chavez and then the late, Al Padilla, from 1977 to 1981, and there you have the “Twin Football Legends of East L.A.” together (Padilla & Guillen), doing what they most loved to do, coach and teach the Game of Football to our young, and very talented high school and Junior College players from Boyle Heights, East L.A., and Beyond. In going back to his coaching timeline, there was time for a transition to Roosevelt for the 1995 season followed by three more with Coach José Casagran from 1999-2002. He would then go back to Garfield from 2003-2005. For his last tour de force at Roosevelt, Coach Guillen returned to the Rough Riders and served as an assistant, first to Coach Javier Cid in 2006, followed by a position with JV Head Coach, Cesar Trillo in 2015, and finally with Head Coach Aldo Parral, from 2017 to 2019.
(Photo Gallery Credits): The Guillen Family; Roosevelt Alumni Association; Erik Sarni & Bob Bernal, Jr./Eastside Media TV; Eddie Ruvalcaba; Coach Javier Cid, Coach Dave Endow, Miguel A. Gutierrez, Martin Flores, Mark A. Vazquez, & Frank Corona. (Video Credit): Erik Sarni, Eastside Media TV
Dickie Guillen’s background starts with his growing up in East L.A. near Obregon Park, and at the age of four, his family moved towards the eastern boundary of East L.A. that bordered Montebello, CA. He attended Eastmont Elementary and Eastmont Jr. High. A teen-aged Guillen would then play for the Montebello Indians under Coaches Vic Loya and Al Chavez. This is also where he met his teammate, and then future Roosevelt Head football Coach, Dave Endow. He would then later enroll at Montebello HS where he played football and was named Team Captain. After graduation, he entered the U.S. Army and served his country honorably in the Vietnam War, from 1969 through 1970. At that time there was only a two-year tour of duty for draftees. After his discharge, he enrolled at East L.A. College in pursuit of his AA degree and always aspired to join the L.A.P.D., but due to height restrictions on applicants as required then, he was declared ineligible for employment. Unbothered by that temporary setback, Guillen then decided to apply for a position with the highly acclaimed and top-level Federal government agency, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). That one decision turned into a distinguished and very accomplished 42+ year career, as Guillen served with excellence in the positions of Investigator, Field Inspector, Seafood Inspector, and Bi-lingual spokesman.
Coach Guillen started his coaching career when he, along with his good friends, Vic Loya, Al Chavez, and a few other Families in the community founded the East L.A. Pop Warner Team, the East L.A. Bobcats. His little sister, Eleanor, performed as a team cheerleader while her big brother coached. In the late 70’s he was offered an assistant coaching position at Garfield HS under Head Coaches Vic Loya, and later, Steve Robinson. Then in 1985, while living in Boyle Heights with his first wife and children, his eldest daughter, Jennifer, Class of ’88, would attend Roosevelt. At the same time, Coach Guillen then made a decision to leave Garfield and seek a position as an Assistant Coach under Roosevelt Head Coach, Dave Endow. He stayed on through 2002 and then from 2003 to 2005 returned to coach at Garfield, under Coach Lorenzo Hernandez. After that brief stint, Coach Guillen went into semi-retirement, coming out in 2015 to work with the RHS JV team. He remained a consultant to the Riders for several more seasons, and then from 2017-2019, officially returned as an Assistant Coach to current Head Coach, Aldo Parral.
A unique family trait that Coach always displayed was taking several of his children with him to watch his regular football practices, the actual season games, and nearly anything associated with the sport, even cheering on our local USC Trojans. Dickie’s family would say that his passion for coaching football started when his father, Romo Guillen, took him to Super Bowl I on January 15, 1967 at the L.A. Coliseum. He idolized Green Bay Packers legendary Coach, Vince Lombardi, and always talked about seeing the man in action on the sidelines. Years later, he would coach his own son in the Coliseum when the “East L.A. Classic” was moved from ELAC’s Weingart Stadium in 2000. His youngest daughter, Virginia, RHS Class of ’94, clearly remembers the many years he taught her and her siblings the game of football, coaching included. So well, that they became true and loyal fans of the game. Virginia would eventually become the Head Coach of the Roosevelt High School Drill Team for seven years. His daughter Denise, Class of ’90, rose to the position of Office Technician and has been the Secretary to the Dean of Students at Roosevelt. Younger brother, Richard, Class of 2002, followed in his Dad’s footsteps to Roosevelt’s campus where he of course, played football. He ultimately became a football coach and worked closely with his Dad on many levels of the game, from Pop Warner teams and up through varsity levels at Roosevelt and Garfield.
In speaking about one of her Dad’s biggest satisfactions in coaching so many players for so many years, Virginia was clear to note that all the love, the caring, the advice, and the guidance given selflessly to his players when they were much younger in life, had overwhelmingly paid off later in their lives, when they crossed paths with their Coach. Those players always expressed themselves with many humble, warm “Thank Yous” and outright gratefulness for his mentorship, not only on the football field, but away from it as well.
One of Virginia’s most stirring recollections of her Dad’s goodness and kindness were the abundance of so many deserving players that he gave rides home to, and even bought cleats, socks, knee pads, and meals for. He was such a giving and tireless man, as well as a coach, who greatly loved all of his players. Her second, and vivid recollection, was what he always stressed to his children and his players—to live by his Three Principles of Life and Sports: 1) Get to work or practice on Time; 2) Do your job; and 3) Stay out of trouble. He never doubted that if his children and his players committed to this, they’d find success in all that they did.
From his only son, Richard, Jr., comes this perspective…Dad, at times, would like to speak in sayings such as: Life is like a game of Football, it has four quarters. You have to know time management, because time will run out. Rich, literally grew up on the football field and was taught life lessons simply while watching his father, and by being ever-present at his side. As a Coach’s son and player, he found it very difficult in trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. It was not the easiest time in Rich’s life. But those “lessons-learned” and the teachings prepared Rich in life and for the final moments of his father’s life. It can honestly be said that Coach Guillen was raised a Bulldog, but died a Rough Rider. The colors Red and Gold, according to Coach Dickie, meant that the R stood for Roosevelt and the G, for Garfield. After a tough game, he would hear his Dad say, “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.” Roosevelt was the first football field Rich ever walked on as a kid. He was blessed even more to be at his Dad’s side in what would symbolically be his last Rough Riders football game. In a fitting quote by Rich, he said, “my father played his last quarter in the hospital, I was there when his game ended, and I was still there by his side. Dad didn’t lose his game, he just ran out of time.”
Rich adds another famous Coach Guillen quote “All Work and No Glory” because Dad was an Offensive Line coach. He taught his linemen that their priority job skills were to protect the quarterback, make first downs, and score. Coach believed that his “O-Line” was the heart of the team, the unsung heroes, who worked the hardest and never get recognized for what they accomplished. Now that his Dad has passed on, he sees the “Glory” of all of the hard work he put into his community during his time here on this Earth. Rich strongly believes his dad was not only a Football Coach, but a Life Coach. His daughters all say that he always had pearls of wisdom to offer them. They quickly learned that even in a simple phone call or a text message, he was always guiding them.
Last, but certainly not to be lost in Coach Guillen’s extremely busy lifetime, was his passionate and enduring “Love of Country.” He was never more “on-time” than last March, 2019, and just prior to the arrival of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, when he was asked to assist the Roosevelt Boys varsity basketball team in their incredible run to the Division V, State Finals playoffs. For two consecutive CIF/Southern Section home playoff games, of which the second would be the historic final game in the old gymnasium, Coach Guillen, was escorted onto the court by two Cheer Team members, for the standard “pre-game” ritual of the playing of our national anthem. During those two games, he dutifully displayed his military pride, and his patriotic gesture of presenting the Colors of our Stars & Stripes to the “sold-out” crowds. He then stood at attention during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Mission accomplished!!
In this final phase of Coach Dickie’s life, his children wanted to share an important message from the Guillen Family to all who are coping with the illness and/or loss of a dearly loved-one due to the COVID-19 pandemic—-stay strong in your faith, fervor, and respect to honor and comfort them. The Guillens used “Zoom” to gather their family members for fast-breaking updates and visitations as they creatively improvised in their gallant and strong-willed efforts to successfully assure their family Patriarch that they were making every attempt to console him during his hospitalization. They did so, and even celebrated his passing by playing his favorite song, “El Rey” by the famous Mexican singer, Vicente Fernandez, while they hugged each other outside of the hospital facing his room.
En Memoriam: To close out our Special Feature on Coach Guillen, we bring you several tributes from his Coaching colleagues and former players.
In a similar way that the late rap artist, Tupac Shakur, summed up a life legacy quote, “People die, but legends live forever,” Coach Guillen, changed it just a bit and came up with “Men die, but legends will always live.” He also liked to say, “A great coach can change a life.” The following testimonials are direct proof that it is so.
*Aldo Parral, Current Head Coach Roosevelt High School: “Dickie’s impact on the Eastside’s young men and football is huge. His discipline, kind heart, and practical approach to the game is what allowed him to adapt to nearly five decades of coaching, while never missing a beat to the sport of football. His family shared him with us and we will be forever grateful. He was my friend and I will always have him in my life.”
*Javier Cid, Former Roosevelt Head Football Coach & Current Roosevelt Dean of Students: “Coach Dickie dedicated his life to helping young men in East Los Angles and Boyle Heights through his dedication to coaching football. From Pop Warner in the 70’s to his participation in the 2020 Rough Rider team, he was a constant contributor in enriching student-athlete’s lives. The lessons he taught are valuable skills that were used by players to succeed in life. Like other legendary coaches in this community from the last century Al Padilla, Steve Robinson, Bob Drake, who are no longer with us, Dickie will be remembered well. Other great coaches like David Endow and John Aguirre (Garfield HS) will attest to that fact and more. I am personally honored to have worked with him for many years and benefited from his friendship in my professional and personal endeavors.”
*Dave Endow: Roosevelt Rough Riders, Head Coach (1985-1995)
Salutations in Tribute to Richard “Dickie” Guillen, RIP! “Corazon” is a tribute to “Dickie.” Growing up with principals of Garfield HS, he was able to make the successful transformation to “all” Roosevelt HS. With human nature, one requires respect and appreciation for loyalty, and if not, then it is time to leave. For Dickie, he left Garfield HS and asked me if he could assist me in any way. Enthusiastically, I accepted his offer, as the peaceful coup became history. As I retired, Dickie’s desire to serve both the Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles communities continued until his untimely death with COVID-19. Fifty-seven years was the full duration our friendship! To his family and friends, my grateful appreciation for his life of servitude.”
*Miguel A. Gutierrez, Class of 1987, Training Counselor, Resource for Education Advocacy, Communication, & Housing (REACH):
Coach “Dickie” Guillen was many things to many people. To me he was not only my coach, but eventually he became a co-worker, mentor, and inspiration to give back to my community. As a player I was able to learn every play from every position on the offensive line. As a rookie coach he trusted me enough to give me the “green” group (4th string) to work with on my own, each of those guys eventually became starters. He also encouraged and allowed me to use some of the techniques that I learned while a “walk-on” O-lineman at USC. I went on to have a 22 year + career as a coach, having coached locally at Roosevelt (‘89-91), Salesian (‘92-‘93), Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary (‘98-‘99), Monrovia(‘00-‘01), Whittier College(‘02), East L.A. College (‘03), Bassett (‘05), Pasadena City College (‘11-‘14), and St.Paul (‘15-‘17). Throughout my career, I knew I could always count on Dickie whenever I needed a hug, or a chewing out session. He never hesitated to help me sort things out. While there are many stories that I can relate about Dickie, the one that always comes to mind is the summer before my brother’s senior year at RHS, and my sophomore year at USC. We always worked-out together. One day, Dickie pulled me to the side and asked me to lay-off a little and take it easy on my brother. I said to him, ‘I can’t…he’s going to be a starter for you.’ Dickie respected that, and my brother went on to start for him. My proudest moment was on my 50th birthday, when he showed up with the gift I will always treasure…a USC letterman jacket. He was a “die-hard” fan, and I’m proud to say that I was his only D-I position player–a third stringer at Roosevelt, and a third string walk-on at USC. Coach Dickie I Love You, and am going to miss your wisdom. I hope that I’ve impacted others the same way you did me.” —Coach Guti
*Martin Flores, Class of 1991, Consultant/Expert Witness for Superior Court, CA., Federal, and Immigration Courts
“It is with deep pain that I share my condolences to the family and friends of Coach Richard “Dickie” Guillen. I had the pleasure of playing for him as a kid with the East Los Angeles Bobcats. That was very short-lived due to me not making the weight. He had me running after practice around Salazar Park in hopes that I could meet the weight criteria. Moving forward seven years later, I played under him as a Rough Riders lineman. Coach Dickie was highly respected by all of my teammates. I was especially appreciative that he believed in me on, and off, the field. He taught me to hook the quarterback’s leg as I would shoot through the “A” gap. This effort was very fruitful on our efforts to stop the Garfield Bulldogs as they ran their “Bulldog Right & Left.” I am proud to have played in the historic “David vs. Goliath” game in 1990 when Garfield had a record of (6-0) and we were (0-6). Everybody wrote us off but our coaches, and especially Coach Dickie, who instilled in us that we could beat them. He was right! We won by the score of (7-0). I would go to every East L.A. Classic following my graduation in 1991. I was also fortunate to have my son, Andres, come to play for the Rough Riders from 2017-2019. He had the honor to play for Coach Dickie in his last two years of high school. I would spend time with him during practices and at the games. We talked about football and life. I always made a conscious effort to seek him out because I truly had great love and respect for him. I know Coach would look out for his players. He would buy them equipment and give them rides home. He was a true leader in our community. He believed in his players and loved his family. Coach Dickie will be greatly missed and will go down as one of our epic Legends in Roosevelt High School football history.”
*Mark A. Vazquez, Class of 1997, Vice President/Market Manager, Bank of America, (since 2003).
“Coach Dickie made an impact on so many of us that crossed his path. Even now 20 plus years later and playing under him one season (1995 Junior Year), his teachings are still in play. He loved the offensive line and his lineman. “All Work No Glory” he would tell his O-Line; we just figured it was because we blocked our butts off and the Fernie Delgadillo-Ralph Dominguez, aka the “D & D” connection, and John Pineda would take the glory because they’d score all the touchdowns. Not knowing then that “All Work, No Glory” was more than a football quote of a raspy-voiced coach—it was a way of life. Putting in work and providing for our family without the glamour. Many of us put in the work and will continue to expect no glory, but we’ve already won because those around us win. Coach Dickie gets the glory because a lot of us won in life. We will always be grateful for him. Thank you Coach! We continue to pray for his family, Jennifer, Virg, Denise, Momma Virg, and his pride and joy, Little Richie.”
*Frank Corona, Class of 2000, Owner of Crown Logistics, Inland Empire:
“I played football for four years at Roosevelt High School. In my junior year, Coach Dickie came back to be an assistant. Although he was not the head coach, I considered him to be one. He taught me everything I know about the position I played. There are a lot of memories I have of Coach Dickie. One that stands out the most is when I had an injured toe and I let him know that I didn’t think I would be able to play. Instead, he took a knee pad, covered my toe and spatted my foot up. Coach Dickie always took care of us offensive lineman. He said we were the most important part of the team and without us, there was no team. He had a saying, “All Work, No Glory.” It made sense because the offensive lineman did a lot of the work but yet did not get the credit. I am grateful to you, Coach Dickie. It was an honor to play for you.”
While we didn’t include any videos with Coach in our story, we have just this one to leave you with. It was his final post-game comment to last year’s 2019 Rough Riders Playoff team. Rest In Peace Coach!