BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Garces Memorial High School has lost one of its best-known figures: former Athletic Director Vince Fanucchi.

If you’ve lived in Bakersfield for any length of time, you know the name. Fanucchi, who has been an icon at Garces High School for nearly a half-century, died this week.

Fanucchi was a graduate of Garces, class of 1967. Then,  starting in 1974, he served as a teacher, coach, and, for some 20 years, athletic director. Fanucchi, school historian and resident icon, died peacefully at his home sometime Sunday or Monday. He was 74.

His brother John Fanucchi, also a Garces instructor, found him Monday evening.

“He was a giant at this place,” John Fanucchi said. “Joan Finch, longtime athletic director here, described him as the GOAT. … He was the greatest of all time here.”

Vince Fanucchi, the oldest of seven, taught English and history, his passion. He coached several sports but one stood out because it afforded him the opportunity to encourage kids who didn’t consider themselves athletes.

“Vince’s favorite thing to coach was actually cross country, but especially track,” John said. “He loved coaching track and he loved coaching all of those people who felt like maybe they didn’t have a place in athletics. He would coach and encourage those people who may not feel that they have skills, to come out, give it a chance, give it a try, and to make the most out of themselves.”

Among his favorite achievements: The Garces Christmas Soccer Tournament, which has been going strong for more than 30 years. At its peak it drew more than 200 teams from all over the West.

“One of the things I think he was most proud of,” John said, “(was that) he started a simple soccer tournament, a Christmas soccer tournament that grew to be one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the United States. Teams from all over the United States, sometimes other countries, would come into town, just to be involved in his soccer tournament.”

They’re still getting over Fanucchi’s loss at the northeast Bakersfield private school. Some colleagues turned his desk into a shrine of sorts. Others wore T-shirts made up specially to honor him – in vivid Garces green.

Vince Fanucchi was never married and had no children. Garces, his brother said, was his family.

 The cause of death has not yet been determined. Services for Vince Fanucchi are still pending.