Hector was the kind of unique ardent Arizona fan who believed the Wildcat football team could still go to a bowl game no matter how bad the record.
In fact, when Arizona went 1-11 in Jedd Fisch’s first season in 2021, Hector told me he heard the Wildcats were invited to play Purdue in the Independence Bowl.
“Hector, they finished 1-11,” I told him.
“They’re going to play Purdue, Javier, because of the turnaround they’re making,” he argued. “That’s what I heard on TV.”
I didn’t want to argue.
Hector had a dream about this scenario and wanted to live out the fantasy.
I didn’t want to take that away from him.
I am the youngest in a family of five children and Hector is the oldest. I also have two older brothers (Carlos and Andy) and a sister (Debra Gloria).
When I was in elementary school, Hector was a handsome young man in high school who had the future in his hands. Intelligent. Athletic. Respectful. Teacher’s pet. Coach’s dream.
He competed for two legendary coaches at Sunnyside High School — football coach Paul Petty and cross country coach Jim Mielke.
My brother Carlos tells me Mielke stated to Hector that if he trained hard and put his mind to it, he could become a world-class runner.
Hector chose football and suffered a serious back injury in practice as a senior when he was sandwiched between two tacklers while running a pass route. He was in traction and unable to attend school for a few weeks.
His teachers and his coaches, including Petty and Mielke, visited our house to check on his health.
Those are some of the last images of Hector I have as someone who was without mental challenges.
A few years after graduating from high school and living with friends, Hector unfortunately took a hallucinogenic drug that may have been laced with LSD. He lost consciousness and had to be hospitalized.
He was never the same, mentally.
He became schizophrenic.
He was still our “Little Hector,” named after our dad and grandfather.
He required constant care.
All the psych medicines he took over the years started to affect his kidneys, and he was placed on dialysis approximately four years ago.
His health gradually deteriorated and he lost the use of his legs.
His trips for dialysis treatment became more and more infrequent.
Three weeks ago, he was rushed to the ER after falling and banging his head on the floor. The doctor said his potassium level was through the roof. They administered emergency dialysis as a bridge toward hospice care.
When he was at Tucson Medical Center, I had to feed him his lunch because he could no longer feed himself.
It was at that time, it really struck me that Hector was in the last stages of living.
The last 50 years of his life were a challenge for him, but he always fought through it with the hope of watching that next Arizona basketball, football or baseball game and taking part in family gatherings.
Hector was deeply religious, derived from our upbringing. We had a few mandas to San Xavier del Bac when we lived near Valencia Road and Del Moral Boulevard.
Our dad asked for his ashes to be spread along the Santa Cruz River leading to San Xavier. My brother Andy and I took that manda in October 2010 from our parents’ home near Congress Boulevard and Grande Avenue to San Xavier to celebrate our dad’s first birthday since his passing seven months earlier.
After Hector began his dialysis treatments, I promised him that I would take him to as many Catholic churches as possible every Sunday for mass. We made it to about 15 churches before his conditioned worsened.
We also went to Arizona football and baseball games when he was able.
His idea of a perfect night — Arizona sporting event, nachos, hot dog or popcorn, a soda and a Wildcat victory.
After one football game, I walked to where the car was parked and drove back to the stadium to pick up Hector, who was using a walker at the time. When I arrived, Hector was outside of Arizona Stadium with popcorn in a clear bag the size of a large trash bag.
“They told me they were going to throw the popcorn away, so I asked if I could have it,” he said with the smile of a kid after given an allowance.
As the oldest brother, Hector took me under his wing because I am the baby of the family.
When Hector was capable, before his mental condition worsened, he drove me to Arizona sporting events.
Our brother Hector is wrapped in an Arizona blanket while in hospice care. Biggest UofA fan I know. Played “Bear Down” for him. Told him to bear down and be at peace. pic.twitter.com/oBJ9qexxgY
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) June 21, 2023
On a couple of occasions, we were involved in automobile accidents. I never held it against Hector. One of the accidents was not his fault, but he did try to chase the person who rear-ended his car and sped away. Hector lost control of the car and we wound up on the other side of a median.
That could have been very serious but the angels were looking out for us.
Hector is always one with the angels.
He is one of them now with our dad, nephew Ian and many other family members.
Hector passed away peacefully with family by his side on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m.
Shortly before his last breath, Hector opened his eyes wide toward the ceiling with a look of amazement. He no longer appeared to be in pain. It was comforting seeing the look of awe in his eyes.
“Do you see your dad, Hector?” our mom asked.
Hector could not speak, but he certainly looked like he saw something majestic.
That’s how I want to remember Hector, who certainly had more than his fair share of tough times:
His life of 67 years was fulfilled with never-ending love and care for others despite all the mental and physical battles.
Hector reveled in the championships for Arizona in men’s basketball, baseball and softball.
A trip to the Rose Bowl sadly never materialized in his life.
The annual shortcomings never diminished his faith in the Wildcats.
After the bad runs, including that 1-11 season in 2021, Hector took “wait until next year” to another level by believing Arizona would finish 12-0 with a trip to the Rose Bowl. No exaggeration.
He called postgame radio shows often to voice his support of the Wildcats win or lose. A treat for him was hearing Lute Olson greet him when Hector called the coach’s radio show.
Hector always wanted to say grace before our meals and ended the prayers with “Bear Down” and then “Amen.”
One of Hector’s favorite singers was Boz Scaggs, whose five-time platinum album Silk Degrees was released in 1976 when Hector was 20.
After I visited Hector at his hospice care on Tuesday, Rita Coolidge’s rendition of Scaggs’ song “We’re All Alone” came on the radio.
The lyrics of the song tell Hector’s story.
Close the window, calm the light
And it will be all right
No need to bother now
Let it out, let it all begin
Learn how to pretend
Miss you very much already, Hector.
Bear Down always with your spirit.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.