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Remembering Rick Renaker; Local Educator Dies After Suffering Heart Attack

From politicians to students, many knew Rick Renaker in Cerritos and all are shocked by his sudden passing.

Rick Renaker a former ABC Unified School District teacher and active community member, died Tuesday, Sept. 6, at about 9:30 p.m. after suffering a heart attack at his Fallbrook home.

Renaker, 63, is survived by his wife Diane Renaker.

Since the mid-1980s, Renaker taught at many schools in district, including  and . He started off as a geometry teacher at Gahr and later became a counselor. And, according to many, he did everything for the school district except become principal.

As a teacher and counselor, Renaker not only helped inspire students, but fellow colleagues as well.

“He gave me confidence as a young teacher that I could do great things for students and cultivate a school culture that provides positive experiences for students,” said Dr. Gina Zietlow, Principal of Gahr High School.

As a member of the Cerritos community for more than 30 years, Renaker was very active in local government and philanthropy. He was a proud member of the , for which he served as president last year. He was also a member of the , serving a term in 2004.

 “He was such a gracious person,” said Optimist Club member and friend Marty Flax. “We (Optimus Club) put on a track meet every year with the middle school kids, and Rick was always so great with the kids, he was honest and straight with them and they always loved him. The club is working on honoring him at next year’s meet by naming it after him.”

In April 2010, Renaker and his wife moved to Fallbrook, Calif. after selling their home in Cerritos. He and his wife wanted to get away and enjoy retired life with a change of scenery. Renaker was an avid golfer, and one of the reasons he moved to Fallbrook was to enjoy a rural lifestyle and to be close to a lot of great golf courses. 

Another of his hobbies was gardening. Soon after moving to Fallbrook, Renaker quickly made a mark in his new community by becoming co-vice president of the Fallbrook Garden Club.

However his move out of the area, did not deter him from keeping in touch with Cerritos community members and the town he called home for so long.

“The last time I saw him was at a golf tournament a few weeks ago,” said Sherman Kappe a friend of Renaker and fellow Optimist. “When his wife Diane called me the next day to inform me I couldn’t believe it.”

Around the Optimist Club members like Flax and Kappe remember him for having a voice and personality that was larger than life. Renaker had a voice that projected great in any acoustic settings. According to Flax, his friend never used a microphone during meetings and even with all the banter that goes on in the meeting, no one ever complained that they couldn’t hear him.

Through the words shared by his friends, family and colleagues, it's evident that Renaker leaves behind an impactful imprint on the city of Cerritos and the communities and people around it. 

Renaker’s final wishes were to be cremated. His wife Diane will honor his last wishes and a small memorial will be held in his honor.

(A date has yet to be scheduled for his memorial.) 

Jon September 09, 2011 at 02:09 PM
He was my teacher and counselor in the late 90's. He was a good guy.
Elizabeth P. September 09, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Mr. Renaker was the best teacher and counselor I have ever had. He was always there for me. He really loved and cared for his students as if they were his own children. He changed my life! Gave me hope for a better future. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for him. He will be greatly missed.
Angie de Leon-Bui September 09, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Mr Renaker was our ASB, Class of 1989 advisor and yearbook teacher. He had a wonderful sense of humor, kind heart and caring spirit. He made a tremendous impact on many lives and will be missed.
Grace Noguera September 09, 2011 at 05:02 PM
I will always remember Mr. Renaker. I really enjoyed taking his math class and learned alot from him. He was very compassionate towards to his students including myself. I hope that God brings his family comfort especially in a time like this. May you RIP Mr. Renaker & may you soar with the angels. :-)
Jennifer Polak Tai September 09, 2011 at 05:07 PM
I first met Mr. Renaker as my algebra teacher at Tetzlaff Jr. High. He was also my geometry teacher and for 3 years my yearbook advisor at Gahr. As the class of '89 advisor, he supported us in leading the school. He always referred to us as "his kids," welcoming us into his life. He will be greatly missed.
Shelly miller September 09, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Mr. Renaker put up with me for a few years at Gahr HS as the spirit advisor for the classing '89 and through a few years of yearbook. He encouraged us to think out of the box before it was en vogue to do so. He also allowed us the freedom to find ourselves in a safe and supportive environment without being judged. I remember his warm smile and the twinkly glint in his eyes - Mr. Renaker was just as excited to be doing stuff at school as we were. And that's why we loved him.
Amy Alves Saude September 09, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Mr. Renaker truly enjoyed nuturing and spending time with his students. He spent a considerable amount of time with our Gahr HS Class of '89 as our advisor. Our senior year was incredibly memorable with Mr. Renaker leading the senior cabinet. Mr. Renaker continued to be involved in his students' lives by helping plan the Class of '89 10 year reunion. He opened his life up to us and will be fondly remembered.
George Ray September 09, 2011 at 09:40 PM
It was an honor to have Rick as a friend and fellow Optimist Member. He was always fun to work with and I will always remember his commanding voice and his incredible leadership skills. Rick touched many lives in a very positive way we are all better for having him in our lives. Good Bye my Friend.
Sonja Inge September 10, 2011 at 01:14 AM
I am so sad to hear about this. Mr. Renaker was my advisor for ASB during my senior year at Gahr High School. There was a fight between me and the president and he was able to peacefully broker the situation. From him, I learned the art of listening, prioritizing and to take criticism as an opportunity to grow instead of fight.
rochelle wollman September 10, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Rick was a true friend of mine. We were both ASB advisors and counselors at different work sites in ABC. We often exchanged ideas and shared many laughs. He truly gave his heart and soul at the annual track events for middle school students. I will miss you and send Diane my deepest sympathy.
Judy Dutko September 13, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Rick and I taught together at Tetzlaff JHS. He was a good math teacher and involved in student activities. He will be missed.

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