December 14, 2011—Writer and high school teacher Rafael Torch '02 has died. He passed away peacefully Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, after a courageous four-year attempt to eradicate sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He died at his home surrounded by close family and friends.
Torch's work was published in the Antioch Review, the Indiana Review, and the North American Review, among other places, and his MA thesis from the University of Chicago, "The Garcia Boy: A Memoir," received numerous awards, including the Catherine Ham Memorial Award for Excellence in graduate work.
Rafael was born Aug. 15, 1975. He spent his coming of age years in Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated from Benedictine High School. He also graduated from Antioch College and, in 2005, obtained a master’s degree in humanities from the University of Chicago, where he received numerous acclaims for his writings, including the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award.
Rafael dedicated his life to impacting lives of high school students. As a teacher at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, The Latin School of Chicago and The Meadows School in Las Vegas, Nevada, Rafael influenced hundreds of minds, as he challenged his students to rise to their greatest potential. His students had a profound impact on his life and he cared for them deeply.
In his honor, the annual Rafael Torch Scholarship was established so that promising high school student writers can attend the Young Writer’s Workshop at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.
Survivors include his beloved wife, Emily Olson-Torch; a beautiful 4-month-old son, Rocco James; his parents, Tom and Tari Sweeney; a sister, Caitlin, all of Shaker Heights, Ohio; uncle, Chris Torch of Stockholm, Sweden; uncle, Lee (Cathy) Clasper-Torch of Providence, R.I.; mother-in-law, Cyndy Olson; sister-in-law, Amanda (Justin) Anderson; brother-in-law, Trent Olson; nephew, Ryker Anderson; niece, Dessa Anderson, all of Morris; as well as numerous cousins and friends.
He is preceded in death by his grandparents, Carl Torch and Sondra Hamilton, as well as his father-in-law, James Olson.
Visitation will be from 4:00 - 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Drake and Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western Ave., Chicago.