A couple of weeks ago, Brian Theriot paid Bob Hailey a visit to give his former Newport Harbor High track and field coach a special gift.
Hailey, a recent inductee into the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame, received a gold lifetime membership pass to any sporting event in the section. Hailey was unable to make the Hall of Fame ceremony in Long Beach because he couldn't get around as good as he used to because of a bad right leg injury he suffered 34 years ago when a drunk driver hit him.
Theriot, who spoke on Hailey's behalf, along with other Newport Harbor representatives, made sure to drive to Hailey's Costa Mesa home the next day. When Theriot arrived, no one was home. Later that night, he found out why.
"He was admitted to hospital the day of the event," Theriot said. "The next day, we hit [Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian], gave him awards [and] showed him film of the event. He was thrilled."
Theriot said he was glad to share that moment with Hailey in his final days before Hailey passed away on Friday at age 78. Randy, Hailey's son, said his father died from complications from the car accident in 1979.
Theriot, like many of Hailey's former athletes and students at Newport Harbor, where Hailey coached from 1960 to 1979 and taught for 37 years, called Hailey "Uncle Bob." To Theriot, Hailey was like a second father.
"Uncle Bob was as vibrant and engaging as ever, up to the very end," said Theriot, who along with two of Hailey's former teammates, David Kurrasch and Jack Minter, spent Thursday with Hailey and the rest of the family at Hailey's Costa Mesa home.
"[He's] at peace and no more pain."
Hailey led the Sailors to six Sunset League titles and dual-meet winning streaks of 26 and 29. In 1975, Hailey guided Newport Harbor to a runner-up finish at the CIF State Championships, where two athletes, Kurrasch and Theriot finished first and second, respectively, in the shotput and 440-yard dash.
Hailey is survived by his wife Dorene, and three children, Laurie, Randy and Jeff.
Theriot said the celebration of Hailey's life will be at Harbor Lawn-Mt. Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary in Costa Mesa on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The funeral is open to the public.
"No one in Orange County track and field history, save perhaps Earl Engman of Santa Ana High, touched the lives of so many quality athletes as did Bob Hailey, who year-in and year-out put together such quality teams and individuals," said Roger Carlson, the former sports editor of the Daily Pilot who covered Hailey and his teams. "He had so many champions, yet I really believe he loved the thrill of the accomplishments of all of his athletes, on the field, and in the classroom. He was for sure, a one-of-a-kind and a true champion. They should set the flag at half-mast on 15th and Irvine."