Torch, Rafael 36, passed away peacefully on December 12 after a courageous four year attempt to eradicate sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. In the end he was at his home surrounded by close family and friends. A native Chicagoan, Rafael was born on August 15, 1975. He spent his coming of age years in Cleveland, OH where he graduated from Benedictine High School. He also graduated from Antioch College and obtained a Master's Degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2005 where he received numerousacclaims 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, NV 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. Rafael was also a committed, passionate writer who drew upon personal experiences to find inspiration. Rafael, whose award-winning work and vivid essays have appeared in many journals including Crab Orchard Review, Antioch Review, the North American review, as well as other on and offline publications, wrote with honesty, insight and wit. 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, IL. Rafael is survived by 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, OH; uncle Chris Torch of Stockholm, Sweden; uncle Lee (Cathy) Clasper-Torch of Providence, RI; 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, IL, 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 Wednesday, 4 to 9 p.m., at Drake and Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western Avenue, Chicago. Funeral services Thursday, 10 a.m. at Fourth Presbyterian Church (126 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago), where Rafael and his family are members. Interment will immediately follow at Evergreen Cemetery in Morris, IL. Arrangements entrusted to Dignity Memorial. Because education played an integral role in Rafael's life, preferred form of remembrance may be directed to a scholarship fund for his son, Rocco James Torch.
Published in Chicago Sun-Times on Dec. 13, 2011