Tom Burt, educator and legendary football coach of Los Altos and Gilroy High Schools passed away on Oct. 16 from stroke complications at the age of 94.
Tom inspired generations of students and athletes to value teamwork and perseverance, pursue their passions and fulfill their potentials.
Tom was born in Los Angeles and raised on a small oil field in the middle of West Hollywood where the Beverly Center stands today. His mother, Frances, was descended from early Montana settlers and his father, Chester, arrived in California from Oklahoma after serving in Europe as a doughboy in the First World War. Tom was the second of four children and the first in his family to attend college. He grew up riding his bike to deliver newspapers in Beverly Hills and to the beach in Santa Monica, enjoying the outdoors and playing every sport available. He attended Fairfax High where he pursued his passion for athletics and was classmates with Hollywood childhood stars including Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
After high school, he fought forest fires while waiting to pursue his dreams of becoming a naval aviator and playing college football.
Tom graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara where he played football, basketball and baseball and where, during a golf class, he met, Katy Molloy, his wife of over 50 years until her passing in 1999. They were married at the Santa Barbara Mission in 1947 and shared lifelong careers as admired teachers, instilling passion for learning in the thousands of students whose lives they affected.
He became head football coach at Gilroy High in the early 1950’s, transforming their program while inspiring many of his players to become successful coaches and lifelong friends.
In 1956 he was the first person hired by Dude Angius, a Gilroy native, GHS Class of ’46 at the new Los Altos High School where Coach Burt served as teacher, football coach and athletic director for 25 years. Under his leadership Los Altos High was recognized as the most successful football and overall athletic program in northern California. From 1961 – 1970 his football teams were champions six times, including the first Santa Clara County title. His honors included CCS and Northern California Coach of the Year, Santa Clara County All Star coach, coach of the North-South California Shrine Game and the first California-Hawaii All-Star Game. Upon his retirement, the Los Altos High football field was named Tom Burt Field.
After retiring from teaching, Tom pursued his passions for sports, outdoors and his family. He and his former assistant, Bob Baird, took up their spikes again in the 1980’s to help coach DeAnza College to a conference championship under Bob Mazuka, one of his former players from Gilroy. Then, in 1990, he joined his former colleague, Pete Riehlman, in a great adventure of coaching the Bologna, Italy “Warriors” American football team. Tom married Dee Hardcastle in 2005. They lived in Auburn and Walnut Creek until her passing last year.
Tom and Katy are survived by their five children, Michael, Patrick, Maureen, Sheila and Kevin, and seven grandchildren, Katrina, Heather, Shane, Carolyn, Kelly, Riley and Grace. His greatest pleasures in life were his family, friends, sports, the outdoors, and the opportunity to mentor so many amazing young people throughout his years of coaching and teaching.
Please join us for a celebration of Tom Burt’s life on Saturday, January 13, 11:30am at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto.
By Pat Burt