Technically speaking, former Miss USA winner Susie Castillo never had a doting father, as she was brought up by her mother.
But then as a freshman at Methuen High along came a guy named Bill Blood, her indoor track coach, who filled that role and, she claimed, changed her life forever.
Blood, a long-time teacher and coach in Methuen, died from a heart attack on Tuesday. Castillo felt like she had lost a father.
“I was very saddened to hear about Coach Blood’s passing,” said the 33-year-old Castillo, shortly after returning from an audition with the Days of Our Lives soap opera in Los Angeles. “He wasn’t just a great coach. He was a great person. He genuinely cared for kids. He taught us so much more than winning at track. He taught us how to win at life.”
Castillo recalled Blood handing out laminated pamphlets, that he created and wrote himself, with references to loyalty, perseverance and never giving up.
“I was a pretty good athlete,” said Castillo, who ran middle distance events like the 600-yard and 1,000-yard runs. “But he always pushed me to be better. He would watch how Olympic track coaches trained and then do the same to us. It was amazing.”
Castillo recalled a particular story with Blood during her senior year at Methuen High. She had opted not to run winter track, instead getting a head start on pursuing her career as a model and actress.
The Coach Blood charm, though, kicked in.
“I knew what I wanted to do after high school and I just wanted the freedom to drive to Boston for auditions or whatever I wanted to do,” recalled Castillo. “I wasn’t there at the first practice and he called me and asked if I’d come to the next practice to talk to him. He told me, that I was a talented athlete (Castillo was on the four-girl sprint medley team that still holds the school record).