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15 May 2013


kurt-compassionate article. btw - loosehead wears a #1 jersey.

7's vs 15's, reading comp problem? He was a LH and played TH to help is team.

sorry, thanks Kurt, isn't Kurt its me thanking Kurt.


Thanks for paying tribute to such an inspirational person in mine and many others in the OMBAC family's lives. He helped me in so many ways. Your article provides the rugby-centric perspective that really couldn't be told (and understood) in all the local media that had reported his tragic passing.

The LH to TH conversion leaves out the circumstance that he rightfully earned the spot over established TH's that were absolute monsters. In those days, OMBAC's 1st side front row were the Eagles, 2nd side front row - all PCRFU reps, and 3rds were Combined Svcs starters.... and we only competed in the USAR Div1 competition. Some of the best (and heated) rugby in the country that was never watched took place every Tues and Thurs at Robb Field.

I feel extraordinarily blessed and honored to have taken the field with Basher wearing the OMBAC jersey.

Thanks again for the eloquent post.

Clark Bernales

Nice post Kurt, and thanks for sharing your memories Clark.

In the late 80s and late 90s, I probably drilled my left shoulder and left side of my face into Graham's left shoulder and left side of his face in close to two dozen Belmont Shore-OMBAC matches/battles/wars. The two clubs faced each other more than four times a year on average in those days (two league games, OMBAC Tournament final, Santa Barbara Tournament final, SoCal playoffs and Pacific Coast playoffs.

I can still feel the OMBAC-Belmont scrum engagements in my neck, spine and back from an era of rugby prior to the "Hold, Touch, Engage" of the present day: You got to the mark ASAP, bound up as quickly as possible. got low and launched from about 5 feet apart because if you weren't ready to launch, you were screwed - and a major reason for that urgency was due to Graham's tight head presence in the OMBAC front row. Graham was always fit, always physical and always mentally tough - and that attitude spread to the rest of the OMBAC pack ... as if they needed it since their pack was comprised of numerous similar-minded players.

I always knew Graham as a pleasant guy off the pitch who obviously had a high level of intellect. No matter the end result of the match, it was always a pleasure to have an after-match talk with him. However, I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't until his tragic and totally unnecessary passing that I discovered what special gifts Graham possessed off the pitch.

My family has traveled to San Diego regularly for vacations over the past dozen years and I've been very impressed over how the City's landscape has evolved and improved. I had no clue that Graham was an architect, let alone that he was one of the major figures in San Diego's inner-city real estate evolution. His legacy in that arena will physically live on for decades.

In a spiritual sense, Graham will live on through his family, his colleagues in the successful business ventures that he fronted, his OMBAC brothers-in-arms and opponents like I who respected his integrity and looked forward to testing their mettle on a rugby pitch.

I confided this to my wife and kids a couple of years ago: Every time I head down the I-5 and get near the Rest Stop in north SD County, my stomach reflexively starts to churn just as it did every time that I drove down to Robb Field during my playing days. I knew it was going to be a war, and pretty much every time it was. Even though we didn't end up in the W column at the end of the day nearly enough to satisfy myself nor my teammates at Belmont, those were the most memorable matches of my lifetime and I wish I could go back in time to experience them again.

Given the life he led, I'm certain that Graham has found eternal peace and that we'll all once again sit together in the clubhouse, tell tall tales about when we were the kings of the world and raise a pint to toast the wonderful life that he led.

RIP Graham. You will be terribly missed.

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