Grief sweeps community as beloved friend dies

Shrieve’s storied legacy lives on in those left behind

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

UPDATE — Richmond High School students and staff and the Contra Costa College community are mourning the loss of a valued faculty member, as Zachary Shrieve died March 24 after a seven-month battle with cancer.

He died in his sleep at his own home in El Cerrito surrounded by his wife and family.

Last Sept. 28, the 46-year-old Shrieve was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and given just two years to live by doctors. In the face of overwhelming odds, the coach and mentor began his race against time to find any avenue toward a cure.

“It’s hard to mourn someone when they’re here, but when they die it is so final,” Shrieve’s sister Stephanie Shrieve-Hawkins said. “That void is there. Everyone is pretty devastated. It’s still so new that it feels surreal.”

His service will be held on Tuesday at the St. Mary Magdalen Church in Berkeley at 11 a.m.

News of Shrieve’s death circulated that day first among family and friends by phone and then spread to social media as the Facebook page of the Richmond High School Alumni made a public announcement of the loss.

Zachary John Shrieve was born April 19, 1969 in San Francisco and was adopted three months later by his parents Ann and David Shrieve.

The couple was told they would not be able to conceive on their own but shortly after the baby Shrieve’s arrival, Ann was informed that she was pregnant with twins.

From adoption, to being the eldest child of a growing family, Shrieve embraced his role as big brother.

“He (Shrieve) took a leadership role in the family. He was and is my go-to person, even as a child. I’ll always be speaking to him spiritually,” Shrieve-Hawkins said.

Shrieve attended School of the Madeleine in Berkeley and went on to Berkeley High School where he lettered in lacrosse, volleyball, swimming and water polo.

He received his bachelor of arts degree in English from San Diego State University. He continued his education earning a master’s degree in health, physical education and recreation from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.

After gaining his teaching credential, Shrieve settled into teaching at Richmond High School where he remained for 22 years. He coached baseball, soccer and volleyball there — helping out in any way the school needed.

He was also an adjunct professor at CCC where he coached women’s volleyball, a run that began as assistant to his sister Stephanie for the 1996 volleyball season.

Former Pinole Valley High School water polo coach and current CCC adjunct swimming professor Jim Ulversoy remembers Shrieve’s prowess in the pool as he coached against Berkeley High’s 1985 RBAL championship team of which Shrieve was a member.

“Twenty years down the line (when Shrieve began as volleyball coach at CCC) and we knew we had history,” Ulversoy said. “He was too young and is gone too soon.”

Shrieve took pride in facing challenges. He loved sports and outdoor activities with his family, and quiet moments with good food and a good novel or book of poetry.

He kept his smile and sense of humor throughout the course of his fight with cancer.

Once while visiting her brother, Stephanie noticed Zach reading a book of stories by cancer survivors.

“Well I guess there can’t be any books written by the non-survivors,” he said, lifting the mood of the room in a way that only he could, Stephanie said.

As an avid traveler, his many world adventures gave him perspective and fulfilled his interests in history and culture. Even when on campus, Shrieve was a proponent of perpetual motion.

“Zach (Shrieve) and I both bought Nike fuel bands and we’d compete to reach our step goals each day,” kinesiology professor Beth Goehring said. “Sometimes he would march circles outside of my office with a smile on his face challenging me to get out of my seat and move. He inspired me in every way.”

The scope of what Shrieve meant to his students is evident in anyone that he coached or taught.

“Richmond lost a good teacher,” former Richmond High and current CCC student Angelica Espinal said. “Whenever he discussed differences with students it was always with a smile, no matter what. People like that make me smile and students liked him because of that. He was very supportive and lifted the spirits of all of the students he came in contact with. I’m still in shock because he was such a good person — it really sucks.”

One constant in Shrieve’s teaching career has been the friendship of fellow Comet coach, former Richmond High teacher and Comet men’s basketball coach Miguel Johnson.

Johnson said he and Shrieve taught together at Richmond before being reunited at CCC.

He said he received periodic emails about Shrieve’s progress with treatment and though the news was not positive, no one expected things to happen this quickly.

“It all takes a toll on you. It’s been different here even though we know why he (Shrieve) hasn’t been around,” Johnson said. “We understand that he is not suffering with that illness (any longer), but you’re never prepared for it.

“With what he went through and the attitude he had through it puts things in perspective. It helps us see that things for us aren’t really that bad.”

Richmond High School faculty members and students had already constructed a makeshift memorial to Shrieve in the school’s central gathering area known as “the pit” the day after he died.

“People at work are really down,” Richmond High and Comet volleyball coach Kristy Tianero said. “I’m speechless right now. I can’t believe that he’s gone. I think I’m still in shock.”

Tianero was a CCC assistant coach under Shrieve. When he became ill, Tianero put Shrieve’s teaching to the test as she took on his head coaching duties at CCC.

“There were so many things that I wanted to ask him. He was my anchor. He always made things better,” Tianero said. “I’m just happy to know that he had his family with him (when he died) and he wasn’t alone or suffering. The fight was exhausting for him.”

The lives of those Shrieve influenced will be less vibrant in his absence.

He is survived by his wife Josephine, his parents Ann and David, siblings, many nieces and nephews, aunts and cousins and scores of friends.

To his players, he was more than just a coach. His ability to support the people he cared about through understanding their problems made him a mentor.

“He cared, like actually cared. He paid attention to our feelings, not just our grades or performances,” former Richmond High student and current CCC volleyball player Amy Palomares said.

“Even when he got sick and couldn’t come to all of the games he still was supportive, encouraging and you knew he wanted to be involved.”