Chandler aquatic center named for beloved coach The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler aquatic center named for beloved coach

November 17th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Chandler aquatic center named for beloved coach
City News

By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

Chandler High School will honor a beloved swim coach who earlier this year died from COVID-19 by naming its aquatic center after him.

The Chandler Unified School District Governing Board voted unanimously on Oct. 28 to honor Kerry Croswhite, who succumbed to the deadly virus on July 21, by putting his name on the facility – where he spent several years coaching Chandler High’s swim team.

Croswhite, who was 61, spent nearly a month fighting the coronavirus and his death was met with an outpour of tributes from former students and colleagues.

“We shared many laughs, exciting wins, and painful losses,” another swim coach wrote on a fundraising site that collected $60,000 for Croswhite’s medical treatments.

“I enjoyed our time together. I think we made a difference with the kids we coached.”

In a resolution officially naming the aquatic center after Croswhite, the coach was described as a kind and compassionate teacher who always taught his students to not take life too seriously. 

“Kerry Croswhite was always there for those who needed help and was a teacher and coach who truly wanted to better every single person he encountered,” the resolution states.

Croswhite’s wife, Laurie, said she was touched by the district’s tribute and felt her husband would have appreciated the school board’s resolution.

“(Kerry) had spent 35 years of his life dedicated to teaching and coaching here at Chandler and he was very proud of the team he built,” Laurie said. “It really honors his memory and carries on his legacy.”

Croswhite was one of hundreds of residents in the Chandler area to contract the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March.

But his death has been one of the pandemic’s most visible impacts for the CUSD community.

His family said Croswhite tested positive for the virus on July 3 and he was checked into a local hospital. His health showed signs of recovery in the subsequent weeks before his symptoms suddenly worsened on July 17.

Doctors eventually informed Croswhite’s wife and children there was nothing else they could do.

“We stayed at his bedside to assure him he was so brave and has fought so hard and how proud we are of him,” Laurie Croswhite wrote shortly after her husband’s death.

Croswhite coached Queen Creek High School’s swim team before transferring to Chandler High in 2002. He quickly became a staple in the local sports community and became known by his students for his happy-go-lucky attitude.

CUSD Board President Barbara Mozdzen said Croswhite was her son’s coach for several years and their families grew to be close – even resulting in Croswhite playing the bagpipes at the wedding of Mozdzen’s daughter.   

Croswhite regaled his swim team and spectators at matches by playing the bagpipes and he performed at many events throughout the Valley.

“Kerry was a friend and he was a very special person,” Mozdzen said. “He was always so positive and optimistic and I think this is so appropriate to honor the aquatic center in his name.”

In 2008, Croswhite was credited with saving the life of Kandace Jilek, one of his students, after she experienced a seizure while swimming in Chandler High’s pool.

Croswhite rescued Jilek from the water and gave her CPR, according to old newspaper reports.

Jilek went on to become a teacher herself at CUSD and was quick to memorialize her former swim coach after his death over the summer.

“The saying ‘not all heroes wear capes’ has never been more true, Coach Croswhite, you were my hero that day,” Jilek wrote in an online tribute to Croswhite.

The district plans to host a dedication ceremony on Dec. 5 at Chandler High’s aquatic center in honor of Croswhite.

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