In the last two weeks, Southern Arizona high school sports administrators, coaches, players, former players and families have mourned the loss of respected figures because of COVID-19 complications.
Raul “Ralph” Alvarado, a 53-year-old campus monitor at Walden Grove High School, where his son Adrian evolved into an elite placekicker, passed away on Dec. 10 after more than a week on a ventilator in a Phoenix hospital.
Jim Tallmadge, 74, died on Monday after working 52 years for the Sam Hughes Elementary School community, 37 as a teacher and 15 as a volunteer chess teacher after retirement. He was an ardent supporter of the Sahuaro High School girls basketball program.
Frank Amparano, who passed away on Tuesday, one day before his 76th birthday, was a longtime Pac-10 softball ump (before it became the Pac-12), high school football and basketball referee and ump and youth softball coach. He was also the head of the board of the Latin American Social Club, which operates the El Casino Ballroom.
Raul Alvarado attended many soccer and football games during his 10 years at Walden Grove. He worked at Sahuarita High School and the Arizona Department of Corrections for 21 years before going to Walden Grove.
“What I learned from my dad is to always be confident and learn from our mistakes,” Adrian told the Green Valley News. “My dad was a great, caring person and if anyone needed help he would be there. He just enjoyed being with his family and friends.
“You’d never see him in a bad mood; he was always smiling whenever you would see him. At lunch, he would always be in the cafeteria next to the lunch ladies when people would pay for their lunch. What stood out is if someone didn’t have enough money, he would always say, ‘Here’s a couple dollars’ so that kid could eat lunch.”
Raul helped with equipment and kept score of games. He also assisted with gameday operations at Walden Grove’s football field. Rosie, his wife who was a counselor secretary at Sahuarita High School, told the Green Valley News that Raul also served as a mentor and coach for young athletes.
“All the students knew him and he knew all of them, and he loved every one of them,” she said. “He loved to tell stories. He loved to laugh.”
In a letter to the Sam Hughes community, Tallmadge was lauded by principal Kathryn Bolasky as being the “heart of our community.”
“His passion for education and supporting interscholastic activities led him to be the fiercest champion for all students fortunate to interact with him,” Bolasky wrote. “It is impossible to quantify or articulate the influence Mr. Tallmadge had on public education in the city of Tucson.”
Two of the more revered and successful coaches in Tucson — Sahuaro girls basketball coach Steve Botkin and Cienega football coach Pat Nugent — hold Tallmadge in high regard.
“It hurts a lot,” said Botkin, who is also Sahuaro’s athletic director. “He was a friend for many years. Huge supporter of Sahuaro girls basketball. He was our No. 1 fan.”
Tallmadge prepared game film for former Cienega football coach Nemer Hassey, who enlisted his help when he previously coached at Sahuaro. Tallmadge remained part of the Cienega “family” after Nugent became head coach at the Vail school in 2015.
“We lost a great man,” Nugent said. “Jim’s a legend in TUSD. … Jim was one of the best film guys. … The Cienega family, he’s a big part of that family. He was a behind-the-scenes guy but some of these kids were a big part of what he did because he was one of the best film guys around.”
Amparano is remembered as a kindhearted person by those who were impacted by him over the years.
“Frank Amparano was my summer softball coach all throughout high school and up until I played at Pima,” mentioned Michelle Ortiz, an Amphi High School softball great. “During my sophomore year, my dad went on strike at Magma and that forced my family to move in with my grandmother in the southside.
“Instead of risking eligibility (I would be living out of district) Frank and his wife Sylvia opened up their home and let me live with them during the season. Frank was a fair and tough coach. He wasn’t a man of many words, but when had something to say, you listened.”
Amparano was running up and down the football fields this fall as a referee. He was part of Jerry Gastellum’s crew that worked the game of the year in Southern Arizona — Sabino’s last-minute rally from 13 points down to defeat Sahuaro on Nov. 14.
Gilbert Wilson, the events coordinator at the Pima County Kino Sports Complex, has worked closely with Gastellum and Amparano through the years because of their officiating backgrounds.
“You were granted your wings today,” Wilson wrote on his Facebook page shortly after Amparano’s passing. “I will always treasure the good times we spent together. You were one of a kind Frank Amparano — ‘Mr. Mighty Fine.’ You were not only a good friend, you were a mentor to me. I am going to miss the conversations we had on a daily basis. Rest in peace my friend.”
Kirby Bollnow, one of the more distinguished referees locally who is part of our Tucson Treasures series, mentioned that Amparano “always had time for younger officials.”
“Frank was a great guy,” Bollnow said. “I worked with him in one of my first games as an official. We drove out to Marana and he encouraged me the whole drive out and was really helpful during the game. He helped set the foundation of my success as an official. We are all going to miss him and I’ll always be grateful for his help.”
Financial donations for the Alvarados to help meet medical costs can be made at a GoFundMe page set up by the family.
The Walden Grove Football Booster Club will raffle baskets and are taking basket donations and items for baskets. To donate a basket or other raffle items e-mail the booster club at firstname.lastname@example.org. The club is also launching a meal train for the family. Details can be found on their Facebook page,
A celebration of Raul’s life will take place in 2021.
Funeral arrangements for Tallmadge and Amparano are pending.