Longtime Maui Sports and News Writer, Broadcaster and Coach Remembered
Friends, family and community members are mourning the loss of Wilfredo “Fred” Guzman, a longtime member of the sports, news and soccer community on Maui. Guzman passed away on Tuesday, May 25, while in the company of family.
“Fred will be sorely missed because he impacted so many people in so many different capacities,” said sports writer and photographer Rodney Yap. “My relationship with Fred extends to high school and college. It was because of him that I pursued sports writing as a profession. When I attended college in San Jose he took me to Golden State Warrior and 49er games he was working and introduced me to the players and coaches in the locker rooms afterwards. Those were larger-than-life moments for me and he never hesitated to open his home to me. That’s the kind of person he was.”
The two worked together, co-hosting a sports talk show on what was then KMVI AM 550, and broadcasting local Maui Interscholastic League games and state tournaments. He also made appearances on sister station KPOA 93.5 FM, where he was affectionately called “The Sports Guru.”
Guzman was hired by Radio Maui in 1991 where he served as News Director and on-air talent for KNUI and KMVI. After the stations were purchased by Lahaina Broadcasting Company (now Pacific Media Group), in 1999, Guzman led the company’s sports department and served as Program Director for KMVI.
He held a variety of roles including on-air, writing and marketing, as well as election coverage and sports writing. “Fred had a gift. The way he communicated in person, over the air on the radio or on the field coaching. He was genuine and sincere, always looking to bring out the best in those around him,” said Chuck Bergson, Chief Executive Officer and President of Pacific Media Group.
Yap reflected upon Guzman’s career and community involvement calling him a natural leader with an innate ability to bring people together. “From his dealings as a coach, to his superior interviewing skills with athletes and politicians, Fred was the consummate professional. A renaissance man, who was always calm, cool and collective — especially on deadline or when the pressure was at its highest.”
“Family was everything to Fred and all of the teams he led and players he coached, he treated them like family — often singling out and making extra time to work with the most difficult players, the ones others had given up on. His passion for telling stories is what made him an award-winning sports writer, and he used that same passion and drive to build successful soccer programs at Baldwin and Maui United,” said Yap.
Working on live radio together for almost 10 years, Yap said he got to see Guzman showcase a variety of communication skills firsthand. “A deep thinker and voracious reader, Fred possessed remarkable knowledge on a wide-range of topics. He was comfortable conversing with political leaders and legends like Pele or Muhammad Ali one day, and the local prep all-star the next day. Whether it was covering the Olympic Games or the local Mayor’s race, he was always humble, respectful and genuine.”
“My brothers and I were happy to share our Dad with all of his soccer kids throughout the years. We were all brought in at some point to coach with him, and he instilled the joy of winning with a team and competitive spirit in each of us. People from all over the world have reached out to us and it makes us feel so proud that he touched so many lives,” said daughter Tanya Ponce.
Colleague and friend, Sherri Grimes, who now serves as the Vice President & General Manager of Pacific Media Group for Maui Radio Operations said, “Fred and I became instant friends when starting as Account Executives a few months apart in the early 90s. We both enjoyed the radio industry but not necessarily being in sales, so we rallied together to get through each day. Being competitive by nature we would then push ourselves to excel on the sales side until he transitioned into the programming department.”
When her oldest daughter took interest on the soccer field, Grimes said Guzman corralled her into helping with Maui United Soccer Club. “I didn’t know much about the technical side of the sport but I believe he wanted my involvement as he was always inclusive that way. When Fred spoke there was always something to be learned, always with intention and life lessons. I’m blessed to have known Fred and his family,” said Grimes.
Friends say Guzman and island attorney, Tony Takitani are credited with developing Maui United Soccer Club in 1992, which now goes by the name Albion.
“Fred was a pioneer of youth soccer on Maui. He believed in our local student athletes and saw soccer as an opportunity to build men and women who contributed to our community in many ways,” said Takitani. “Fred gave of himself his entire adult life on Maui. He loved the kids he worked with and was very proud when anyone did well and pushed themselves to achieve. All he asked for was for a player to play smart and give maximum effort.”
Brent Nunes, Technical Director for Albion Soccer Club Hawaiʻi said the soccer world lost a true pioneer, leader, and ambassador of the sport here in Hawaiʻi.
“He was more than just a coach on the field, he truly loved helping develop young student athletes into successful men and women. Many of us would never be where we are today without his guidance and mentorship,” said Brent Nunes. “Fred worked hard to open doors for Hawaiʻi kids who had a dream of one day reaching the highest level within the sport. His mission to help Hawaiʻi kids develop life lessons through this beautiful game will always be a priority in all that we do here at Albion SC. Today, we continue to strive to achieve the vision of inspiring greatness and encouraging our youth to dream big and work hard to attain their goals on the field, and most importantly in life. Fred, your legacy will live on forever.”
Friend, Chuck Nunes said, “Fred Guzman was a mentor but more than that he was family. He raised the bar for youth soccer on Maui by endorsing the goal of training Maui teams to be competitive with the best teams on Oʻahu and the mainland. Fred dedicated his life work to helping all players.”
“I witnessed numerous occasions where high school players, who did not play for his teams, and their parents ask him to speak to various college coaches on their behalf,” said Chuck Nunes. “On our numerous trips to regional and national soccer tournaments, he would endorse various Maui soccer players to the college coaches that were attending these tournaments. He believed in helping any player that needed help.”
Chuck Nunes also served with Guzman on the Maui HYSA (Hawaiʻi Youth Soccer Association) board together for many years. “He based his ideas and decisions on what was best for all the players in the league. It was never based on what was best for his club teams,” said Chuck Nunes. “His contributions to the youth of Maui were numerous and he will be sorely missed.”
In addition to his work on Maui, Guzman also served in the US Army as a Sgt. E-5 in the early 70s with a specialty in medic and administration before obtaining an honorable discharge. Starting in 1968, he worked as a sports writer and columnist for the San Jose Mercury News in California, where he was employed for 16 years. He also spent two years as Executive Editor of the Morgan Hill Times from 1984-1986. For five years from 1986 to 1991, Guzman worked with special events company ProLink out of Santa Clara, Calif. where he served as Vice President before moving to Maui.
Guzman is survived by his: mother Laura Otero of Bayamon, Puerto Rico; children: Tanya (Andrew) Ponce, Cacique Guzman, Ali’i (Erin) Guzman and hānai son Raul Tornel of Morgan Hill, California; niece, Naydine Espinosa of Orlando, Florida; grandchildren: Noa and Laʻa Ponce; and Isabella, Bennett, Tehya and Emeline Guzman; and great grandson, Meison Ponce.
He is predeceased by his: father Martin Guzman; wife Cynthia Nahi Guzman; sister Nydia Espinosa; and nephew Marco Espinosa.
A cremation ceremony will be held on Monday, June 14 at Ballard Family Mortuary with visitation from 3-4 p.m. A Celebration of Life will be held in early August.