Zach Swan memorial celebration scheduled

Steve Gerace
Zach Swan

Zachary Swan, who earned his Bachelor’s degree and teaching credential and got the first teaching job he ever applied for – all after being diagnosed with a form of cancer that rarely strikes adults – died April 28, 2010 at age 28.

A graduate of Dunsmuir High School’s class of 2000, he died at his mother’s home in Manteca with family at his side, “the way he wanted,”?his mother, Maribeth Dunn, said.

A memorial celebration of his life is scheduled for Friday, May 14, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Dunsmuir Community building. The public is invited.

Though he missed a significant amount of time on the job because of illness, Zach was determined to continue teaching PE at Jefferson High School in Daly City as long as he could, Dunn said.

He was nominated for Comcast’s All Star Teacher 2010 award in the San Francisco Bay Area and is one of five finalists. The winner will be determined by online voting and will receive $10,000 for his or her school.

A Facebook page titled “Rest In Peace Mr. Swan,” has attracted hundreds of followers since it was created by one of his students May 1.

“Our true all american hometown boy,” wrote one of Zach’s friend in a Facebook comment. “I know now that God had a reason. He... knew through this tragedy & heartbreak, you would be the one to teach us all & you did just that. You showed us how to love intensely. You showed us how to fight with everything you’ve got.”

A star athlete during his career at Dunsmuir High School and a Ford Scholarship winner, Zach was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January 2005. A type of cancer that normally affects children ages 5 and younger, it is only known to be diagnosed in one or two adults per year in America, Zach’s mom said.

He took a break from school at Sonoma State to have surgery and went through five difficult rounds of chemotherapy, then returned to school.

Many more efforts were made including another surgery, several types of chemotherapy and clinical trials in Houston, Texas and at UCSF.

Though he had moved away, Dunn said Zach always considered Dunsmuir home and returned when he could.

The community rallied to help him during two fundraisers that were held in Dunsmuir, and Dunn said he always wanted to give back.

He came to Dunsmuir for his birthday on April 4, and the family held an open house with food and drinks. Dunn said close to 80 visitors came. It was supposed to last from noon to 4 p.m., but continued until 8 p.m. Some visitors stayed until 1 a.m.

“He wanted to see people. He wanted people to get together and visit,” Dunn said. “His big thing was that people are too busy to visit.”

An avid sports fan, Zach developed an interest in photography in recent years. He loved the San Francisco Bay Area, the ocean and valued time with family.

Dunn said Zach’s wish for his memorial celebration was that it be a happy event. “He wanted to be remembered as healthy and happy. We’re going to do our best to honor his request.”

As part of his desire to give back, a memorial scholarship is being established in Zach’s name through the Dunsmuir Scholarship Fund.

“He touched a lot of lives with his personality and concern,” said Mike Rodriguez, who hired Zach to work one summer for the Recreation and Parks District. “He definitely wanted to lead by example, and he did that. He was a genuine young man.”