In Memory

Ralph Punaro

Former SPHS Athletic Director Ralph Punaro Remembered

South Pasadena High Principal Janet Anderson will remember Ralph Punaro as a "dear friend, mentor, and allaround good guy," talking about the man who lost his life on Sunday due to complications from cancer.

"He fought a valiant fight," wrote Anderson in an e-mail, noting that Punaro, 64, the former athletic director at the school, was surrounded by family, at the time of his passing, approximately 2 pm on March 30.

"Thankfully, the end came just days after hospice care began at his home," said Anderson of Punaro who worked at the school for approximately 27 years, 19 as girls' basketball coach and 14 as athletic director.

On April 5, he would have been 65 years old, "certainly way too young to leave us," she said. Due to his small stature, Anderson presumes, Punaro's Beverly Hills High School and UCLA pals nicknamed Punaro "Mouse." Growing up, he was both a proud Norma (mascot) in high school and Bruin in college. Punaro retired as South Pasadena High's athletic director two years ago. 

"If the true measure of a person is the impact and positive influence he has on others, then I would venture that 'Mouse' doesn't really tell the story," said Anderson, who highly respected the former athletic director. "Each of us can recount the many ways Ralph cheered us, taught us, supported us, and left us feeling better for his presence. His students, student athletes, and colleagues were all so fortunate to have Ralph in our lives." Anderson said it's not yet known when a service for Punaro will be held. His wife, Marguerite and daughters, Angela and Gina would like to establish a scholarship fund at South Pasadena High in Ralph's name. "When that is established, they will share the particulars with us," said Anderson.

Bill Glazier, Review Editor, South Pasadena Review, April 3, 2014



Longtime South Pasadena High School athletics fixture Ralph Punaro passed away March 30, 2014 after battling cancer. He was 64.

Punaro had coaching stints at South Pasadena that included girls basketball, girls tennis and baseball, but was best known for being one of the most likable athletic directors in the area. He resigned from his position two years ago.

"It's been rough," said South Pasadena girls basketball coach Tammie Lai, who had known Punaro for over 20 years and was hired by him. "I'm really glad he was able to catch a couple of our games this season. It's tough because he helped transition myself and the other coaches into the girls basketball program.

"He was always really supportive. When he hired me, it wasn't like 'Take this team to CIF'. It was just "Coach, and have a good time coaching'. That was his personality. He was a fun-loving, easy going guy."

Punaro attended Beverly Hills High School and later UCLA. He earned the nickname "Mouse" by his friends because of his pint-sized physical stature, but made up for it with high energy and a die-hard love for South Pasadena athletics.

Punaro spent 27 years in the South Pasadena school district, 15 of them as athletic director at the high school. South Pasadena sports teams won 89 league championships during Punaro's tenure, according to the school. Punaro's impact wasn't just felt at South Pasadena. Athletic directors and coaches at other schools in the Rio Hondo League were also taking the news of his passing hard.

"If I talk about him long enough, I'll get pretty foggy," said Monrovia athletic director Randy Bell, who has held the position for 14 years, 12 of which he worked with Punaro. "Ralph is, was, and always will be my favorite Rio Hando Leaguer. He was a great guy. Fourteen years ago, when I was a fledgling athletic director, he was one of the people I leaned on for guidance and help. He was just salt of the earth people."

Pasadena Star-News, April 2, 2014

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04/10/14 09:07 PM #1    

Steve Ledder (1960)

Ralph was instrumental in helping to get my best friend's father - Robert McCue (football), elected to the SPHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. All the more remarkable since McCue graduated in 1931.  Ralph was an an outstanding guy and created a wonderful legacy for Tigers everywhere. RIP, my friend.


Steve Ledder


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