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Ernest “Ernie” Zeno died peacefully on April 3, 2004, in Encinitas, California, after a lengthy illness.
Ernie was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, the fourth son of Italian immigrant parents who had been interned at Ellis Island during World War I.
Ernie attended Waltham High School, where he was recognized not only as an outstanding student but also as an all-star in swimming, track, gymnastics, the shot put and football.
Ernie’s high school summer months were spent at Walden Pond, in Concord, Mass., where he served as a public lifeguard. Ernie attended Boston College during his freshman year on a football scholarship, but soon transferred to the University of Nevada on a more appealing scholarship to play for the “Wolf Packs.”
Continuing to set records on the football field, Ernie was scouted by Arizona State College and picked up on a full football scholarship, where he starred for four years as a running back, linebacker and fullback for the Arizona “Sun Devils.”
Ernie earned his teaching credential from San Diego State University and was signed on in 1956 as a U.S. and world history teacher, track coach and later as head football coach at San Dieguito High School.
His personal philosophy, which he made certain those around him never forgot, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” also drove his coaching philosophy. Coach Zeno led the San Dieguito High School Mustangs to the CIF (Avocado League) playoffs three consecutive years.
Later, accused of being “too tough” by the administration, Ernie was relieved of his coaching assignment. He was quick to inform the administration that he was running a football team, not a ladies’ “garden party.” “Playing third stringers does not make a winning team” he was fond of saying. Always outspoken and unwavering liberal, Ernie was an advocate for the disadvantaged, making it his focus to assist young people, urging them towards a higher education and excellence.
A vociferous advocate for teacher’s rights, Ernie served for many years as the chief negotiator with the Teachers’ Labor Union and the school district. An equally demanding classroom history teacher, Ernie is remembered for his vast knowledge of world affairs, U.S. history and ancient history and his keen intellect.
Ernie traveled extensively in Western Europe, accruing more than two dozen trips abroad before he became too ill to travel.
In 1983, he and his family acquired a Fulbright Scholarship to Lea Bridge, Derbyshire, UK, where he coached at the Anthony Gell Comprehensive School in Wirkswirth, Derbyshire, UK. …
… During that academic year, Ernie and his family resided in the original, three hundred year old home of Florence Nightingale.
Following his retirement from the San Dieguito Union High School District, Ernie made his home variously in Port Angeles, Wash., Boise, Idaho, and Las Vegas…