Teacher, coach, real estate agent, sportswriter — Frank Aguilar has never been the type of person to sit still, so he did them all.
Now, after he was sidelined by unexpected complications from surgery, former students and coworkers are stepping up to help keep him and his family moving.
The most senior member of the English department, Aguilar, 58, coached girls basketball and boys soccer, along with girls soccer and softball. He also worked for a time as a sportswriter for The Herald-News.
“He’s not a person who ever sat still for very long,” said fellow RHS English teacher Sandy Mettel, who played on the school’s basketball team during her high school days. “I don’t know when he slept.”
Aguilar, due to retire in May after 32 years at RHS, was undergoing surgery to remove several aneurysms when he suffered a spinal stroke that left him paralyzed. Now home after being hospitalized since September, Aguilar needs extensive therapy, according to his brother.
“It’s going to be a super-long process,” Jim Aguilar said. “The chances of him walking are very slim.”
Now, friends are working to help the Aguilar family pay for modifications needed to make Frank’s home wheelchair accessible, from installing ramps to widening doorways, adding wheelchair lifts for the stairs and converting bathrooms to allow for better access.
A benefit is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at the Knights of Columbus, 100 S. Infantry Drive in Joliet.
Mettel, who played for Aguilar in the late 1980s, said her former coach is known for pushing both students and athletes to excel.
“As a coach, he was very intense, very determined,” she said. “He demanded hard work … he’s definitely a person who did what he could to motivate you.”
While he shaped teens into winners on the basketball court, he also stressed academics.
“He wanted all the girls to go to college,” Mettel said. “That was a big goal of his.”
RHS graduate Yesenia Vasquez played on one of Aguilar’s championship basketball teams with her two sisters, Terri and Margaret.
Just as friends are stepping up to help the longtime coach, she said, Aguilar was known for helping his students and athletes, going out of his way to make sure they reached their potential.
“He demanded a lot, but in a good way,” Vasquez said. “He’s just a rare type of teacher,” she said. “You don’t find very many coaches like him now.”
Aguilar was there for Vasquez when middle sister Terri died during her freshman year of college.
“I was on the court and … he called a time out,” Vasquez remembered. “He said, ‘Yesenia, you have to go home.’
“ … I remember him bringing me to the locker room and talking to me,” she said. “He gave me a St. Jude pendant and he told me to hold onto it.”
Vasquez said she remembers Aguilar visiting with her grieving family and checking in on them in the days that followed.
“He did a lot without asking for anything back,” Vasquez said, from helping students who were financially struggling to pushing teens to work harder. “It wasn’t just our family,” she said. “He helped out a lot of athletes.
“ … Now it’s his turn,” Vasquez said. “Now it’s time to give back to him.”
Benefit slated for April 17
The Knights of Columbus benefit will include raffles, prizes and dinner.
Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To purchase a ticket or donate raffle items for the event, contact Jim Aguilar at 708-369-0546.
Those who are unable to attend the event but would like to make a donation can send checks, payable to the Benefit for Frank Aguilar, to 6301 Brixton Court, Plainfield, IL 60586.