March 7, 1961-July 17, 2018
Palo Alto, California
Richard John "Rick" Longyear passed away on July 17, 2018 after receiving a diagnosis of late-stage cancer earlier this year. Rick lived his 57 years as a son, husband, father, teacher, coach and friend; his legacy is the dozens who loved him, the hundreds who laughed with him and the thousands who learned from him.
He was born on March 7, 1961 in Kodiak, Alaska to a Navy man and his wife, George and Nancy Longyear. The family settled in Southern California where Rick grew up as the oldest of six siblings. Despite skipping past first grade (due to unruly "know-it-all" behavior) and losing a year of growth, he excelled in sports at every level and swam for the Villa Park High School swim and water polo teams.
Rick’s talents in school and pool led him to Stanford University, where he served a few years riding the bench for the water polo team and finding friends in his dorms and biology classes. A wayward frisbee during junior year introduced him to his future wife, Sally. Rick graduated from Stanford with a bachelor's in Human Biology in 1982 but stuck around to earn a master's in Education in '83, when Sally graduated, and the pair never lived off the Peninsula after that.
During his final year at Stanford, he got a job as a student-teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, where he taught biology (and some math) for 36 consecutive years. While his labs were strictly run and his homework make-up policies rigid, his love for the subject and commitment to his teaching was well-known. Rick was conspicuously proud of accruing an entire school-year's worth of unused sick days over three decades.
If he was a fixture in the classroom, Rick may as well have been a stone gargoyle attached to the ramparts of the M-A pool. He spent 24 years as a swim and water polo coach before ceding the whistle, but continued to serve as a league meet official and scorer. His teams won numerous league and section championships, and many of his swimmers moved on to collegiate and national levels.
We hope he'll be remembered for his devotion to his family, loyalty to his friends and dedication to his students. In addition, Rick probably will be remembered by those who knew him for his love of wordplay, absurd trivia knowledge (covering Stanford, professional and Olympic sports; acted and written media; three-plus decades of music; and, of course, science and biology), quick laugh, quicker smile and resonating "coach" voice. He was inducted into both the Villa Park and Menlo-Atherton Athletic Halls of Fame, and if there were Halls of Fame for community softball, golf and volleyball, he'd be in those as well.
Rick is survived by his wife Sally, son CJ, father George, five siblings, and more than 40 total in-laws, nephews, nieces and cousins. His spirit joins his daughter, Sarah and his mother, Nancy, in our memories.
More than anything, Rick Longyear was a teacher. We were lucky to witness his life sharing his experience, knowledge, and passion, and we're lucky to carry his lessons with us into the future. He touched thousands of lives in his time, but his impact continues to grow.