A former cross country, track and wrestling coach and special education teacher, Pacheco died Nov. 3 at age 51 after a long battle with kidney failure, diabetes and transplant organ rejection, said his wife, Valorie Pacheco.
“Live life with no regrets,” he often told those he coached, according to Stephanie Kilgore Heath, who graduated from Bonneville in 2002.
Carrying that saying with her long after he was no longer her coach, Heath said those words gave her the push she needed to face difficult challenges.
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Heath is only one of many who said their lives were forever changed because of their association with Pacheco.
“He has always been so very positive and makes me think that there isn’t anything that I can’t accomplish,” said Alex Stcherbinine, a former student, in a nomination letter for Pacheco to receive a Standard-Examiner Apple for the Teacher Award. “He will be someone I will always look up to and try to be just like.”
In the letter, Stcherbinine acknowledged Pacheco’s efforts to push forward despite his health constraints.
“He has never stopped achieving his goals, which shows an example to all,” reads the letter.
Valorie Pacheco said she was amazed at this week’s viewings and memorial service at the number of former students who told her how her husband improved their lives.
“I am incredibly proud of how many people he touched,” she said. “You can’t believe how many people came through the line and said they wouldn’t have graduated or known what to do with their lives without him.”
And knowing he helped others gave Pacheco comfort as his life drew to a close, Valorie Pacheco said.
“Not everyone gets to the end of their life with the knowledge that they made a difference,” she said. “That’s his legacy of his life. He truly made a mark.”
She told of her husband’s deep love for his two daughters and grandson, Atticus Morton, that kept him fighting for his life in the last few months.
Pacheco’s reach also was felt by his colleagues.
Speaking at his funeral, fellow Bonneville High Coach Preston Warren said he felt drawn to Pacheco for years in a way he couldn’t explain, starting while they both were students at Weber State University.
That connection became stronger when Pacheco got sick and Warren found he was a perfect match to donate a kidney to his fellow coach in 2002.
“When it was time to truly put someone else’s needs before mine, I didn’t think twice,” Warren said.
The Pacheco family gave credit to Warren for giving his friend 12 more years with them.
Pacheco’s example was worth emulating, Warren said.
“He had a way of seeing the essential elements of what needed to be done and he was more patient with me than I ever deserved,” Warren said. “This philosophy of life carried over from his own family and the deep-rooted elements of his Native American culture.”
With his students, Warren said Pacheco was more than a coach.
“He was a mentor and he was a friend,” Warren said. “He knew when to push his athletes through their breaking point and when to back away. More importantly, he knew when to let them develop on their own.”
Heath said Pacheco paid attention to details, allowing her non-competing younger sister to go with the cross country team when she would have had to be home alone. He later offered more than words to support Heath and many others in their lives since high school, she said.
He gave his time and attention whenever called upon, inviting former students into his home with his family whenever they arrived unannounced.
An instructor teaching communications at Weber State University, Heath said she was working on a heartfelt thank you letter to Pacheco for making the difference in her success upon her graduation with her doctorate degree from Louisiana State University in December.
“I describe him as a touchstone, one of those people who you can’t imagine not being there, who points you in just the right direction, who gives you just the right push to get you going,” she said.
Heath said Pacheco had a way of interacting with people that left them feeling important.
“We were never packaged as a group,” Heath said. “He treated everyone with the same humor and the same kindness but we all got a piece of Mr. Pacheco that was so individualized. You felt like the most important person when you were speaking to him.”