This past Memorial Day weekend, the Santa Monica community lost a long-time friend, colleague and educator. Norm Lacy, athletic director at Santa Monica High School, passed away from a heart attack while on vacation with his family. When I first learned about his passing, I literally gasped out loud. I just saw him last week in his office. He was smiling and friendly. I commented on how great and radiant he seemed — thus making his untimely death even more shocking.
I met Norm about three years ago when I first opened my fitness company, O2 MAX. As a fellow USC Trojan and fitness expert, I reached out to Norm so he could help me better understand why some kids were not passing the physical education testing requirements, as well as what we could do to help these kids take charge of their health. Norm spent hours helping me grasp how athletics were structured at Samohi and how physical education in general was mandated by the state. He genuinely cared and wanted to see physical education evolve and get more students excited about being active. Norm spoke with years of wisdom and knowledge. I also remember joking with him about how he had changed with the times and was receiving e-mails on his phone.
With Norm in mind, I reached out to the community to share some tributes that illustrates how many generations of students and families he really touched.
“My son is playing freshman/sophomore baseball and we went to support the varsity team against Hawthorne on April 13. Norm was standing behind home plate. I introduced myself and told him I was confused by the huge number of divisions, leagues, Southern Section, City Section, etc. I wondered if he might shed some light on it for me. The man was a virtual encyclopedia and gave me an enlightening, five-minute history lesson on high school sports in Southern California going back to the 1970s. He explained the Bay, Ocean, and Pioneer leagues as well as where Samohi fit in. He touched on fascinating historical, cultural, geographic, and political themes of the region. And we had a good chuckle when he admitted that there were a few things … that were so complicated that even he didn’t understand. Norm supervised nearly 50 teams at Samohi. I think it is safe to say that Norm Lacy has had the greatest, positive impact on the greatest number of kids in the 100-year history of Samohi.
“His presence was an inspiration to generations of ‘Samo-ians.’ Simply knowing that one could walk past his office was enough to help a parent feel safe with a child,” Evelyn Pandey said.
Alison Silvers, Samohi class of 2004, had Norm as her freshman PE teacher.
“Although it was years ago, I remember how encouraging he was toward non-athletes, which inspired me to try out for and join a sports team.”
Evelina Weary, class of 2009, remembers him as “a long-time, loved member of the Samohi community.”
“As a previous cross-country and track runner, I appreciate the hard work that went into planning and funding multiple races … to participate in to have an amazing running team,” Weary said.
The thing that so many people can’t help but ask is, “Why? How? This person was so active his entire life!”
Norm’s passion clearly transformed him as he evolved into an educator and inspirational resource to high school students.
Norm was an offensive lineman at USC in the mid-1970s, and went on to be a high school football coach. After serving as an assistant football coach at Samohi, where he taught and also coached wrestling and golf, he became a head football coach, guiding St. Monica to a California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section championship in 1998. When he returned to Samohi, he guided the Vikings to a championship in 2001.
Norm’s passing was so unexpected. It really shows that heart attacks happen even to the healthiest of people. There are definitely precautions that can be taken and tests that can be done. As we get older, it becomes even more important to get checked regularly by a doctor. Unfortunately these things sometime happen with no warning at all.
The number of people in the community that have rallied to honor Norm’s life is a testament to how much his legacy will be remembered and felt for decades to come.
Karen Jashinsky is the founder of O2 MAX — a youth fitness company based in Santa Monica focused on meeting the needs of college students, teenagers, and children ranging from ages 2 to early 20s. She can be reached at Karen@o2maxfitness.com or (310) 867-1650.