Rudy Castro was, and is, a legendary sports and political leader. A role model.
The former Tucson City Councilman passed away peacefully Tuesday morning at the age of 87. An old political ally and friend of my late father, Hector Morales, Castro helped guide our city to a new age in the 1970’s in a proud and dignified manner befitting a man who loved his Badgers, loved his Wildcats and loved his city.
“I want people to know my father loved Tucson,” his daughter Celina told me. “He grew up proud to be from Tucson. He was proud to be a Mexican and he was a role model for a lot of young people. I can’t tell you how many times people would come up to him while we were at a restaurant or out somewhere to thank him for being an inspiration. For being a good teacher.”
Castro played basketball, football and baseball at Tucson High. He was the captain of the basketball team that won 52 straight games, including the 1948 and 1949 state championship teams coached by Bud Doolen and he played on the baseball championship teams of 1946 and 1948 under Hank Slagle. Castro turned his Badger fame into a stint playing basketball and baseball for the Marines before becoming a Wildcat.
Castro went to three straight World Series appearances under for Frank Sancet while also playing basketball for Fred Enke.
Castro served on the city council from 1968 to 1978 but his main love continued to be the children of Tucson, and he served them best by teaching and coaching. He coached the Cholla baseball team in the early 1970’s and the field was named after him in 2003.
Castro went to Davis Elementary and Roskruge Junior High before attending Tucson. Simply, Castro knew what it meant to grow up in the barrio and he knew what it meant to succeed. Celina told me many of his former students and players felt he was especially hard on them when they were younger but were grateful for his strong leadership when they were older and were able to reflect on what he meant to them.
But Castro, like a lot of grandfathers, was not too tough on his grandchildren, especially former Tucson and Pima basketball standout Holly Bolen.
“It broke my heart,” Celina added.
“My father was the male role model for Holly. Everything good about her she got from him. She has a good head on her shoulders and she has his special heart. We both got to see him and kiss him yesterday and Holly spent all morning with him today.”
Holly wrote this on her Facebook page:
“To the greatest man in my life. Rest easy Tata, my heart is overflowing with the love you have given me. You taught me how to drive, how to shoot a basketball, how to throw and hit a baseball. You were at every single one of my basketball games. Most of all, you taught me how to be tough, strong, and how to treat a woman. I will forever carry that with me wherever I go. And I’ll always have that extra scoop of chocolate ice cream for you. Thank you for being my biggest role model and my biggest fan, no matter what. I love you dude”
The last time I saw Rudy was at Holly’s Sophomore Night at Pima in 2014. We talked of my father who passed away four years earlier. Both served on the city council, both graduated from Tucson and both joined the Marines. In many ways, Rudy helped me heal.
Celina got a phone call Tuesday morning from her mother, Carol. At first Celina felt it was to wish her a happy birthday but the early hour surely meant the worst for the family for 4 a.m. phone calls from family members are never kind.
Castro is survived by his wife Carol, his children Linda, Julie, Rudy and Celina along with three grandchildren, Holly, Thomas and K.C.
The mystery surrounding life can never be solved and life itself is way too important to be summed up in a few words. We are forever bound to fumble for words at a time of grief. It was meant to be difficult to console for a reason, I suppose.
But life, in this case, is passed on from father to daughter to granddaughter. We all experience loss and we all experience birth. The fact that Rudy passed away on Celina’s birthday is in many ways sad but, in many ways, joyful.
Immortality comes through our children.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com