Remembering Justin Garza (July 25, 1974 – February 20, 2017)

The Central Valley of California is mourning the loss of Justin Garza. I was stunned when I heard the news of his passing and just want to spend a few minutes reflecting on the Justin I interacted with. I am going to ask each and every person who reads this to register with the bone marrow registry. 

“We never truly get over a loss, but we can move forward and evolve from it.”

Elizabeth Berrien 

“In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life, there is a deafening alleluia rising from the souls of those who weep, and of those who weep with those who weep. If you watch, you will see the hand of God putting the stars back in their skies one by one.” 

Ann Weems 

His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” 

Matthew 25:23 NAMB



Justin Garza in the 1993 San Joaquin Memorial Yearbook 

This is going to be a hard post to write. Given what I am reading in the media in the San Joaquin Valley I wanted to add how I knew Justin Garza and also give people an opportunity to exchange thoughts, and memories  of this fine young man. 

I attended San Joaquin Memorial from 1989 to 1993. I played football there as well. Justin Garza was on the team and I believe he was in a couple of my classes. I think, if I remember correctly he was in Donna Kretch’s American Literature with me. On the football field and in the locker room he was a dedicated team player. He poured himself out on the field, and yet he was one of the most nicest, sincere individuals I ever knew. He was talkative and took an interest in people. He was caring. On the field he played hard and was a natural born leader. In 1993 when I graduated I got a copy of the football films to make a copy for myself. Justin heard I had the films, and he called me up and asked me to drop then off. I did so, at his home in North Fresno. To this day I can remember walking up to his door and him answering the door. It was summertime and he was engrossed in watching football films. He was studying them, and pointed out a couple of things to me. I didn’t know this at the time, but today in reflecting back Justin was studying and eventually preparing for the career he would have in coaching football. He asked me to keep in touch and I moved on and life happened. In the time that passed he coached at Reedley, Sunnyside and Central. He eventually came down with cancer while he was coaching and battled it. He taught by example and faced his fears during this time.  After high school I moved from Fresno to Montana, then briefly back to Fresno and to Wisconsin and then here in Washington, D.C. I am out of the loop  from what is happening in Fresno but I heard that Justin was battling cancer and that it came back. I knew there were bone marrow drives going on in Fresno. I decided to reach out to him, and then life happened. I was at my desk here in D.C. working when my sister called and told me about the news with Justin Garza’s passing. I was stunned as I heard it. That can’t be the case I thought…and then I went to the news local Fresno news and started to read.  I was heartbroken and got up from my desk and walked around outside. 

I can’t imagine what Justin’s family is going through now. I can’t imagine what his parents are grieving. I read the social media and I see how people are responding. I just wanted to take a minute and reflect on Justin. He was an amazing individual. He impacted my life at Memorial and commanded presence and respect. He was a hard worker, and dedicated. Yet he would befriend and get to know you. Reading about all this is profoundly sad and its in that frame of mind I have to say the following. I can’t believe this happened. I can’t believe that you are no longer with us. You made a huge impact on people wherever you went. You are one of those people who are loved by many. I have met a lot of people in my life but you stand out in my mind as someone who was unique. You were a natural born leader. You were dedicated and put the team or others before yourself. You were a hard worker and you worked, worked and pressed on. As you were battling cancer you used that experience to teach. The community was better off because of you. There is a giant void that just cannot be filled. Your drive was called “Be The Match” In your memory I am going to challenge everyone who reads this to register for the bone marrow center. The more people who do so the more this terrible disease can be halted. I am especially going to ask this if you are Hispanic. If people want to share a memory of Justin, or reflect on how he touched your life when you were a student at San Joaquin Memorial, football player or colleague feel free to comment below. Rest in peace bro! While you are gone physically,  in spirit you live. Your life lives out in those you coached, and those you were involved with day to day. 


5 thoughts on “Remembering Justin Garza (July 25, 1974 – February 20, 2017)

  1. I’m sorry to hear this. I’m on the bone marrow registry because a member of our church had leukemia. Many of us went on the registry because she needed a transplant. While she did get a transplant, she then developed Graft v. Host Disease, and eventually died.

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  3. I watched three videos about Justin. He made a difference in many people’s lives. Quite an individual. Thanks for sharing David. My heart goes out to his wife and 2 kids. I hope they are doing well.

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