By Ben Terris and Milton J. Valencia
The 33-year-old boys' varsity soccer coach at Newton North High School died over the weekend, after he collapsed while playing soccer.
Ucal McKenzie, who previously coached at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, died after playing soccer at Joe Moakley Park in South Boston, friends said. He was praised Monday by school officials and fellow players.
"Ucal was a huge presence in this school. He was a doer and an unsung hero who took up any task that was put before him,'' Newton North principal Jennifer Price said in a statement.
McKenzie was the third current or former faculty member of Newton North to die in the last month.
Thomas DePeter, who retired after 35 years as an english teacher and drama director at Newton North, died on May 6. He had also been a lacrosse coach for Newton North, Newton South and Lincoln Sudbury, according to a death notice.
"This has been a challenging week for our community,'' Price said in a statement. "We have in place a counseling team from across Newton who will be providing support during the day in the library for staff and students.''
McKenzie was a native of Jamaica who played soccer at Suffolk University, where he graduated in 1998. He was the Head boys soccer coach at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School from 2003 to 2006, according to this biography.
Emelio Williams, a fellow coach at Valeo football club, who was on the way to watch McKenzie play on Saturday, said the loss will touch a close knit soccer community, particularly the youngsters who he had not only coached but also mentored.
"He touched a lot of kids,'' said Williams. "He was a good overall role model, just a very giving person who always went above and beyond.''