For 90 minutes on Wednesday night, the fans at CenturyLink Field got to celebrate their club, supporting the Sounders on the way to a 2-0 victory over Jaguares de Chiapas in the Community Shield match.
For that 90 minutes, the Emerald City Supporters in the south end of the stadium also got to celebrate one of their own. Just before kickoff, many in ECS learned that longtime supporter Steve Sarina passed away, ending a hard-fought battle with melanoma.
Donning his favorite Jeff Parke jersey, Sarina was on his way to the stadium, where he was going to spend the match in a suite because his health would not permit him to sing and cheer in his normal spot amongst the ECS, when his labored breathing ceased.
“He always said the phrase, ‘I’m Sounders ‘til I die’ … He took it literally,” said his friend and care-taker Stephanie Beck. “We have been overwhelmed with the support from the Sounders. It’s pretty amazing.”
Sarina was diagnosed with melanoma in March of 2010 while in Korea with the Air Force. It was there that they learned that the cancer had spread from a mole between his toes. Within two weeks, he had two toes removed and the tumor removed from his leg and with that, the cancer treatments began.
Parke and his wife spent over an hour with him on Tuesday, knowing that he may not be able to make it to the game on Wednesday.
Sarina celebrated his 34th birthday with players from the Sounders in January and was a regular in the stands at home matches when he felt well enough to attend.
Mike Seamon was there at his birthday celebration, along with Kasey Keller and Lamar Neagle, and fondly remembered Sarina, whom he talked with regularly at team appearances.
“Everytime we hung out with him it felt like the first time he was meeting us. He was always so excited and had so many questions about the team,” Seamon said. “You would never know that he was sick.”
Seamon distributed black wristbands to the team before one game and they wore the bands to raise awareness for melanoma shortly after Sarina visited the team at training.
A retired Air Force veteran, Sarina grew up in Portland, Oregon, but called Roy, Washington, home since his time in the Air Force came to an end.
“We’re all very sad to say goodbye to a devoted ECS brother. A man who sang with us on the terraces and fought with us on the pitch,” said ECS member Kate Rees.
A memorial fund is being arranged to honor Sarina. The Emerald City Supporters are holding a memorial service for him March 10 at Temple Billiards from 4-8 pm.