The Burlingame High School community is mourning the loss of an icon.
Frank Bert Firpo Jr. died last Friday at the age of 73. Firpo was a member of the Panthers athletic community since moving to Burlingame in 1971. Before then, he coached at Mills High School for six years. He retired from teaching in 2004 but stayed on as part of the Burlingame coaching staff another six years before retiring for good in 2010. While at Burlingame, he coached both basketball programs, girls’ volleyball and girls’ softball. He was also Panthers athletic director from 2000 to 2006.
Firpo is survived by his wife Sharon, brother George, son Tony and his wife Chrissy and children Jason, Ryan and Connor, daughter Julie and her husband Karl Bohn and children Brendan and Kevin, son TJ and his husband Ben Bowler, and daughter Janet and her husband Dave Baird and children JT and Tommy.
Having spent 45 years coaching local high school sports, Firpo certainly touched many lives, from students to athletes to other coaches.
“I was very sad to hear the news about Frank,” said Steve Picchi, a former Burlingame and Sequoia coach who knew Firpo since the first day he stepped onto a high school campus and later went on to coach alongside him at Burlingame. “My first day in high school in 1973, my first period teacher was Frank. It was world geography.
“He was one of those special, special guys,” Picchi said. “My heart goes out to his family. I coached his daughters, so it came full circle. He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever experience in education, in athletics. A classic teacher-coach. Always teaching, always had time for every kid. The greatest level of kindness and integrity that I have pretty much ever seen. Just solid. He’s the kind of guy you want your kid to play for.”
Firpo was a San Francisco native who graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1959. His first coaching experience came at Mills when, from 1967 to 1971, he coached the boys’ basketball team. He would later move to Burlingame where he coached boys’ basketball from 1972 to 1990, volleyball from 1985 to 2001 and softball from 1989 to 2010. He led the 2003 Panthers to the Central Coast Section Division II softball championship.
“He was really a class act,” Picchi said. “You want your kid to play for him. He’s really at the top of my list. One of my mentors in my career and a great friend. They’ll always be a little bit of coach Firpo in me because anything good, I probably got from him. Just a kind-hearted guy and a great teacher.”
Family and friends may visit after 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15 at St. Robert’s Church, 1380 Crystal Springs Ave. in San Bruno where the vigil service will begin at 7 p.m.
The funeral mass will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, also at St. Robert’s Church.
A private committal will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please make donations to the San Francisco Giants Junior Giants Foundation.