Craig McNamee – who spent his spare time coaching youth sports and proudly supported the Vandenberg Village community and the entire Lompoc Valley – died on Tuesday night after a three-year bout with cancer.
McNamee, 49, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2014.
Longtime friend Michelle Townes told the Times that McNamee was “a pillar in the community, having worked at the Post Office for 30 years and coaching multiple youth sports. He has impacted so many lives.”
Townes' daughter Sydney starred on the CHS softball diamond with McNamee’s daughter Madison – both of whom were best friends throughout high school and are still close to this day.
Michelle Townes, who is an ROP teacher at CHS, described McNamee as a very competitive person, but also one who genuinely cared about the kids he tried to impact through his coaching.
“He was very competitive, but his fire and passion made him a great coach,” Townes said via email. “He could get the best out of kids. He began coaching youth and Babe Ruth baseball even before he had his own kids. He also was a part of a men's baseball league. He played basketball and baseball at Lompoc High. Craig was hard-working and dedicated, often showing up to games in his work uniform on his lunch break, coaching, and then head back to work.”
Along with his coaching prowess, McNamee was known to have a humorous side.
“Craig had a great sense of humor and was a great guy to be around,” Townes said. “We have spent a lot of time together on ball fields over the years as my husband and him coached together and both our oldest daughters are best friends and played softball through college together. Plus our youngest sons (Cade McNamee is a freshman football player at CHS) are good friends; still playing football, basketball, and baseball together at Cabrillo.”
Townes isn’t the only one who felt McNamee’s impact. Cabrillo football assistant coach Eric Pacheco grew up with McNamee during a time they were Lompoc Braves. Pacheco was always in awe of how hard McNamee played on the basketball court and other sports.
“I remember him for being a tenacious competitor. We used to call him 'Mad Mack' because he played so hard,” Pacheco said during the Conquistadores’ practice on Wednesday. “He was really competitive. But there’s nothing bad to say about that guy. I remember looking up to him as a player because of the passion he played with.”
Pacheco already senses that the Conqs want to play for the memory of McNamee once they hit the field against Santa Maria this Friday on the road.
“A lot of our kids know his family. And we teach nothing but family here,” Pacheco said. "Our coaches say, 'Circle the wagons and protect our own.' We need a spark and this would be a good spark for us.”
Cabrillo head coach A.J. Pateras called McNamee’s passing a sad and tough situation. The first-year coach adds that he hopes the Conqs will honor his memory on Friday night at SMHS.
“We want to play in memory of him, and do it at a high level. These kids have been working their butt off and I think that represents Craig’s memory,” Pateras said. “I heard stories about him getting treatment, but then coming to his son’s game and still coaching and being there. It goes to show you his passion and commitment but also the love he had for his family. It was strong.”
Fundraisers still a go
Townes has helped set up fundraising events to help aid the McNamee family, including an event at the Lompoc Pizza Garden on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. plus a bake sale at Wild West Pizza in Lompoc on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Then on Oct.1, there will be a barbecue dinner featuring chicken, beans, salad and bread at the Dick Dewees Center from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. Townes adds a silent auction will take place at the October event.
Additionally, Pateras says the Conqs plan to honor McNamee during their next home game on Sept. 15 against Templeton.