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Millard remembered with fondness

An estimated 150 pay their respects to former Estancia High baseball coach who died Monday at age 76.

October 30, 2009|By Barry Faulkner

COSTA MESA — Several moments after the hour-long memorial service for former Estancia High baseball coach Ken Millard had ended Friday, even after most of the estimated 150 in attendance had exited Mesa Verde United Methodist Church, the stories about him continued.

Family members, former players and students, colleagues and friends, stood in a handful of clusters, catching up with one another and sharing their memories of the man who died Monday at age 76. The man they knew as “Coach.”

Millard’s daughter Kari Vergil, Bob Flint, who coached against and with Millard for more parts of three decades, and former Estancia player and coach Joe Ronquillo, who called Millard a father figure, mentor and friend, all related their own stories during the service, helping fill the church with laughter.

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Vergil recalled her father’s unique bedtime stories that included tales of Goldie Locks and the Chicago Cubs, and Jack in the Beanstalk always running from someone named Willie McCovey at some place called Candlestick Park.

Flint told of Millard’s many facets, weaving humorous stories through his observation of his friend as linguist, medical expert, philosopher and psychologist.

Ronquillo recalled a trip to Wrigley Field, which for Millard meant a return to his native Chicago, and the special memories he shared with Millard, as well as a special group of friends that included Scott Thompson, Bob Madden, Rick Webb and Dennis Hurwitz.

“Reggie Jackson once said that he was the star that stirred the drink,” Ronquillo said. “Well, coach was the glass who held the drink for these guys, who he considered his team, his boys.”

Ronquillo joked that one of Millard’s regrets was that he was never able to convert Ronquillo and his friends into drinking Budweiser beer, Millard’s favorite.

But with the five friends assembled at and around the podium, Ronquillo handed out cans of Budweiser that they each cracked open as Ronquillo proclaimed. “Today, Coach, we say ‘This Bud’s for you.’ ”

Jean, his wife of 55 years, 40 of which they lived together in Costa Mesa, was there as were former major leaguers Rich Amaral and Jeff Gardner, who played for Millard at Estancia, and Brent Mayne, who while at Costa Mesa High, played against Millard’s Estancia teams.

Millard, also a physical education teacher, came to Estancia in the late 1960s and became head baseball coach in 1972. He held that title for 20 seasons, 10 of which the Eagles advanced to the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

He spent 31 years at Estancia before retiring.


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