SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Longtime sports reporter Brad Memberto is being remembered by many on the Central Coast.
On Sunday, the popular Memberto died in Arizona after a long battle with diabetes.
Before moving to Arizona to be with family, Memberto covered sports and entertainment in Northern Santa Barbara County for more than 20 years.
During that time, he became a friend to many, developing a reputation as a passionate and caring journalist.
"He exemplified everything that you would want in a local sports reporter," said friend Charles Sommer. "He was always positive and always supportive of all the athletes and all the coaches. Never spoke negatively about anybody.
Several years ago, Memberto took the Lompoc native under his wing, helping Sommer move into the sports media.
"He was passionate about sports," Sommer said, who founded Slo Poc Sports. "He was an educator to me and others. He was a role model to any aspiring media member. If I hadn't met him, I wouldn't have a radio show today. I wouldn't have started working at Hancock, which is a 10-plus year relationship. He was somewhat of a father figure to me."
For the last several years of his career, Memberto covered Lompoc Valley sports for the Lompoc Record and Santa Maria Times.
Sommer said he had an uncanny knack of being able to befriend and relate to whoever he covered.
"He would find a way to connect with any athlete, whether he was at Huyck Stadium covering the Kiwanis track meet with middle school kids or the college students at Hancock," said Sommer. "It wouldn't matter how old they were, what gender they were. He had a way to connect and a way to make them laugh and he had a complete passion of sports and it showed with every word he wrote, every time he spoke with you."
Over the years, Memberto was a familiar figure at local fields and gymnasiums.
In addition to writing for the Santa Maria Times and Lompoc Record, he was also a play-by-play announcer on local radio, calling high school and college football and basketball games for many years.
He also served as public address announcer for Hancock Athletics, the Santa Maria Indians and various high schools. During his time with Hancock, he also worked as sports information director.
No matter where he worked, he developed strong relationships with players, coaches and fans alike.
"He had an exceptional understanding of what he was doing," said Hancock football coach Kris Dutra. "I always noticed that no matter what he was covering, he always kind of had an edge to it because he understood. He did his homework on the sport that he covered."
Memberto had a longtime connection with Hancock. Among his many duties over the years, he called countless football games on the radio, and later, on livestream. Memberto and his longtime color commentator Irvin Kiger provided live coverage of the Bulldogs, both at home and on the road.
"He would always ask the right questions," said Dutra "I was interviewed by him a ton of times and I always thought he was a real pro at what he did, especially working with Hancock College. He really seem to understand the difference between junior college ball and high school ball and even Cal Poly.
Dutra is especially appreciative of how Memberto treated his work as more than just a job.
"Brad always seemed like the kind of guy that, he wanted to get to know you," Dutra said. "Not just cover the sport, but he wanted to get to know the coaches. He wanted to get to know the players. And I think being around here as long as he was, enabled him to do that. He was just a good guy and a good person.
Among his favorite assignments was covering the 2011 St. Joseph girls basketball state championship team.
"He was always really kind and when he was at our games, or traveling when we are making our CIF or state runs, he was I was really kind, and I almost felt like he was part of our coaching staff or something," said Heather Madrigal, who was a freshman on the team. "He was always cheering me on and I didn't expect that from the media. I expected someone to make me look bad, but he was always there and was a big supporter.
Madrigal was a frequent subject for Memberto to write about. She would star for St. Joseph for three years, before moving on to Arroyo Grande, and later Cal Poly.
"I was always excited to read what Brad had to say becauseI knew he was going to be one of my biggest cheerleaders, but also one of my best critics because he was always really fair," said Madrigal.
While Memberto was popular with coaches, players, parents and fans, he was likely even more so among his contemporaries.
Former KCOY sports reporter Kevin Roose spent several years working alongside Memberto.
"He was just a kindhearted human being," said Roose. "And I love being around him. And I think anybody who is an athlete or a coach would say the same thing. He had an infectious personality to where he would always make you laugh and smile and and he was always fair in the way he reported and told stories."
Roose stayed in contact with Memberto after he relocated to Arizona and said he'll never forget his friend.
"Thank you for everything you gave us," Roose said. "Thank you for everything you gave me in my career, I really appreciate it. And I hope to be more people like him in the future.
Sommer said Memberto, despite his passing, leaves a legacy on the Central Coast that will carry on.
"He meant so much to so many communities, not just the Lompoc community," said But the Santa Maria community, the Orcutt community. Wherever he went, he touched people in a way that he'll never be forgotten. And I have never met someone that didn't bring up his name and they didn't smile.
Brad Memberto was 63-years-old.