There was a grace to Cecilia Goods-Fernandez that went beyond her performance on the volleyball court, beyond that fluid athleticism that earned her postseason awards, including the 1997 player of the year in the Pacific Division of the Western Athletic Conference her senior season at the University of Hawaii.
There was a grace in how “Cia” dealt with her cancer diagnosis, knowing that the chemotherapy — five-plus years’ worth — would never cure, only slow, the invasion in her lungs. She had a life to live that included raising five children, who, at the time of her diagnosis, ranged from ages 3 to 13.
She had good days. She had what she called “sick” days after her treatments.
She had great days, including last Wednesday, when the Goods and Fernandez families gathered to celebrate Halloween at her home in Waikapu, Maui. The ohana couldn’t know that, two days later, Goods-Fernandez’s father-in-law, Joseph Fernandez, would die, nor that a day later she would as well.
Goods-Fernandez was 43.
“Everyone is still in shock,” her husband, Robert, said in a telephone call to the Star-Advertiser. “She was doing great until right after Halloween. She kept saying she was fine, but she had a cough.
“We went to the hospital Friday and they said it was pneumonia. The antibiotics worked and then they didn’t. Through it all, she kept saying, ‘I’m a fighter.’ She fought until the end. And those who knew Cia’s smile … it was there.”
The Rainbow Wahine volleyball team found out Saturday while in Long Beach, Calif., for a match against Long Beach State. Head coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, assistant coach Angelica Ljungqvist and director of volleyball operations Aven Lee had all been teammates of Goods-Fernandez, including the 1995-96 seasons, when Hawaii was a combined 66-4.
When reached in California on Monday, the three staffers said they were not ready to comment. Former coach Dave Shoji was.
“Cia was one of those rare local players who combined athletic grace and the aloha spirit,” said Shoji, who recruited Goods-Fernandez out of Kamehameha. “Although soft-spoken, she was tough as nails.
“She was one of the best middle blockers in the history of the Wahine program, and was taken from us far too early.”
Goods-Fernandez’s statistical legacy is solidly ensconced in the Hawaii record book, even 21 years after she last played. She is No. 2 in total blocks in a match with 17 (one solo, 16 assisted) in a five-setter against Utah in 1997, is second to Ljungqvist in single-season block assists (199 in ’97) and total blocks (230 in ’97); and second to Heather Bown in blocks per set (1.99 in ’97).
Career-wise Goods-Fernandez is top seven in block assists (491), total blocks (573) and blocks per set (1.47). She also played one season for the Wahine basketball team.
“She never talked about herself or what she had done,” Robert Fernandez said. “But we’d show the kids the old VHS tapes of her playing, or sometimes they’d see it on TV. They say, ‘Wow, Mom, is that you?’
“She was this amazing woman. I know how honored I am, how blessed, to have had her.”
Goods-Fernandez is also survived by children Haalulu Fernandez-Roy and Kimani, Brielle, Serenity and Peyton Fernandez; her mother, Ethel; brother, Moses; and sisters Becky and Kathy Goods and Julie Rhoden; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life is being planned for a later date.
Donations to help defray medical costs can be mailed to: Friends of Cecilia Fernandez, P.O. Box 3110, Wailuku, HI, 96793.