Ralph Romero, known as “Mr. Cholla” by students and staff members because of his passion for the high school, has passed away from colon cancer at the age of 66.
He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2019, and the community has rallied around him and his family since. A Go Fund Me account has been created to help fund for the family’s funeral expenses.
Romero was a long-time custodian, equipment manager and assistant softball coach at Cholla. He started there in 1984 and remained diligent with coaching softball and working his other jobs, including volunteering his time past what his salary dictated.
Cholla’s softball field is named after him. The late Stacy Redondo, a former Arizona softball player, played for Romero at Cholla when Jerry Gastellum was the head coach.
He was awarded the Lanny Williams Award in 1998 from the Tucson Unified School District. The award recognizes one person each year who, as a volunteer, has made contributions to high school interscholastic programs.
Students became enamored with Romero because of his devotion to their development.
A KOLD-TV report on Feb. 12, 2020 mentioned the Chargers’ boys soccer team dedicated their playoff season that year to Romero following his cancer diagnosis.
“I started crying; unbelievable that they care for me so much,” Romero said, emotionally.
“He means a lot to us,” Isaac Espinazo said. “Every time we’re down or something by half, we just remember what fight he’s fighting every day and it makes us fight a little bit harder on the field.”
Former Cholla principal Marcia Volpe, now retired, mentioned in a 2009 Arizona Daily Star article that Romero was a role model for the students.
“Truly, Ralph has changed the lives of so many children at this school,” she said. “He’s just a pillar of this community, and he has high expectations for our kids, and the relationship-building has been none other.”
In another KOLD-TV report by Damien Alameda, Romero was featured when the Cholla softball field officially bore his name Dec. 16, 2021.
“He is resilient. He is a fighter and I’m so proud of him,” former Cholla, Pima College and ASU standout Anna Gonzalez told Alameda about Romero’s battle with cancer.
Funeral arrangements are pending.