Alto memorial

Images of memorials like this one on the OCC campus for the late baseball coach John Altobelli were featured in a video tribute to "Coach Alto," his wife Keri, and daughter Alyssa who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. The video was produced by OCC and featured a number of guests sharing memories on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. 

The Orange Coast College community came together in an online celebration of life for John Altobelli, his wife Keri and youngest daughter Alyssa one year after a tragic helicopter accident took their lives.

The memorial event was posted to YouTube on the one-year anniversary of the crash that killed nine passengers, including hall of fame basketball player Kobe Bryant, and his daughter Gianna.

“Wherever you are, however it works for you, we come together to remember John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli and celebrate their lives,” OCC athletic director Jason Kehler said to open the 40-minute memorial video.

The online service was a montage of publicly submitted pictures and videos, along with an array of speakers that would emphasize the different ways Altobelli touched the community.

“Coach Altobelli had many successes on the field, but we know what was most important to him was seeing his athletes be successful in life and in education,” OCC President Dr. Angélica Suarez said. “Coach Altobelli’s legacy will continue to live on at OCC if we continue to see our athletes succeed and represent the values that were instilled in them by Coach Altobelli.”

Known to be a father-figure to players and coaches in the program, Altobelli seemingly treated everyone like family.

“Alto talked about it all the time, we’re all one big family,” OCC baseball head coach Nate Johnson said. “The baseball team, athletics department, kinesiology department and this school. When we talk about the Pirate family, we don't take it lightly. It’s definitely special.”    

To conclude the celebration of life was John’s younger brother and OCC sports information director Tony Altobelli, who did a breakdown of all four state championships he and his brother won together. 

“There were so many things that happened in the 2019 Final Four that I’ll never forget,” Tony Altobelli said. “There were things that happened in 2019 that didn’t happen in the other three [state championships]. I guess somebody upstairs knew something was going to happen.” 

Tony Altobelli was heavily involved with the baseball team in their championship runs, announcing the games, running the scoreboard and more. He was able to be by his brother’s side as he managed a championship caliber ballclub. But this year in particular was different. 

“We were gathering after we won the championship, and for whatever reason I was never next to John in any of the team photos,” Tony Altobelli said. “But this time I hopped in there and put my arm around him. He gave me a good grip on my shoulder that I’ll never forget. It was John and I’s last time on a baseball field together, and I have a picture to remember it by.”

Beyond all of the accolades and stories along the way is Coach Altobelli’s mantra that he lived and died by.   

“Make today count. That was Alto’s favorite saying,” Johnson said. “I know he lived that way, he instilled that in our players. Make today a great day, and make everyday a great day. Appreciate what you have, love your family, but more importantly, make today a great day.” 

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