A memorial to Juan Rodelas has
sprung up at the site of the accident
that claimed his life. Courier Photo
Friends and acquaintances of Juan "Johnny" Rodelas, who died from a car wreck Saturday, paid tribute to his memory Monday at the school where he was a popular and out-going 16-year-old junior, at the site of the horrific wreck that claimed his life, and in comments on The Courier's website.
“He will always be loved. I’ll miss him. He was like a best friend, someone I could trust and tell everything. He always knew how to make me smile,” said Logan junior Alyssa Segorini Monday afternoon.
“He was a good man. It’s sad to see him go, but God only takes the best,” said Robert Luke, a junior.
“I’ll always remember his smile. His smile could brighten your day,” said Anjelica Ramos, a junior.
“I’ll miss him and never forget his smile,” junior Alyssa Crosse.
“I’m hurt. He’s a great guy. We’re not gonna see that smile (anymore). He’s in greater hands, and a better place.” said junior Reanna Pineda.
“Always made me crack-up in Spanish. He always had a smile on his face,” said freshman Gustavo Rodriguez.
“Word! Nerd! That’s Zerks! That’s what Johnny always used to say,” said junior Sarah Gallegos.
Hundreds of students participated in an impromptu tribute to Rodelas during first and second periods. The tribute started at the raised stage area in Colt Court, where students wearing white t-shirts, a Rodelas trademark item of clothing, took to the stage and spoke of the loss of their friend and their memories of him.
Later, the students and staff at the tribute moved into The Spot, where a microphone was set up for students and others to continue memorializing Rodelas.
Some wrote tributes on sheets of butcher taped to walls for students to express their grief.
"I cherish every moment we’ve spent together, and you will always be in my prayers. No matter what. You make me laugh and feel so good about myself. I will never forget all the times we walked home together. And that one time in 6th grade we watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So funny," wrote junior Micah Mahinay.
“I grew up with him. He always knew how to start a party…An overall good guy. He knew the right things to say at the right time," wrote junior Jackie Campa, "He was just that brother everyone wanted.”
“Johnny! I’m gonna miss you like crazy! It’s going to feel so different without you in Geometry! No lie! Who am I gonna update now? Shoot…I can’t believe this is real, The famous words of Johnny, “Blood, You Hella Slippin." wrote sophomore Ly Ho.
Logan administrators, counselors and school psychologists moved through the gathered crowd offering support and counseling.
In an email to the school staff Monday evening, Principal Judy Billingsley praised the staff's efforts to ease the pain of the school's loss.
"I'd like to take the time to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we all came together to go through the grieving process of losing a wonderful student and person, Johnny Rodelas Jr," wrote Billingsley, "Today 300+ students gathered in The Spot sharing the fond memories of Johnny."
"The adults in the room stood strong as they assisted students trying to make sense of the situation," Billingsley wrote, "I am grateful for our counselors Josie, Regina, Brenda, Barbara, Jaime, Satinder,Amelia, and Erica who came together to provide students the comfort and support they needed.
Although 11th grade and Puente program counselor Erica Luna got married this weekend, she came in to work Monday morning, and stayed all day to support the Puente students and teachers. Rodelas was a Puente program member.
The Puente Project is an academic preparation program that for more than 25 years has improved the college-going rate of tens of thousands of California's educationally disadvantaged students. Its mission is to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students who attend college.
"Kudos to the best counselors anyone could have," Billingsley said.
Billingsley also thanked Logan school psychologists Richard Romberg and Barbara Baker who "stepped to the plate" in providing comfort, counseling and support to students and teachers while giving great suggestions on keeping the process as smooth as possible, she said. "We are grateful for your help."
Billingsley noted that Eleventh Grade Principal John Rodriguez, counselors Satinder Samra and Brenda Espinoza visited Rodelas' classes throughout the day to help support them and their steachers "who faced an empty desk where Johnny should have been seated."
She singled out Rodriguez, Rodelas' House Principal, "who showed great courage in making sure the day went as smooth as possible setting aside his own feelings." Before becoming a house principal, Rodriguez was Rodelas' Puente program counselor.
Finally, Billingsley thanked "everyone who helped to keep the normalcy during these trying times for many students and adults. It is important that we keep as much normalcy as possible especially, for the many students who did not know Johnny."
Even students who didn't know Rodelas well, or at all, were touched by Rodelas' untimely death.
“We weren’t the closest. Even though we lost touch, I’m gonna miss him,” said Josh Sadsad, a junior.
“I just met him. He had a great personality. It’s a shame he passed away. He didn’t deserve it,” said Karina Contreras, a junior.
Some couldn't put their emotions into words.
“I’m just at a loss for words,” said Jeremy Torres. “It’s hard to explain. We’re all at a loss for words. We’re speechless.”
Others remembered him and his beloved red Corvette, the car he was driving when he lost control and slammed into a pair of concrete-filled steel poles guarding the driveway to the Blommer Chocolate factory on Central Avenue after 9 p.m. on Saturday night.
A passenger, Logan junior Alejandro Gomez, survived the accident, although he was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries suffered in the wreck.
"I’ll always remember him by him and his red Corvette,” said junior Ranjana Prasad.
Several dozen friends and acquaintances, including Logan Puente teacher Julie Panebianco, gathered at the site of the crash after school Monday to pay their respects and reflect. A makeshift memorial made of flowers, candles, posters and other items grew at the side of the Blommer Chocolate driveway where the Corvette came to a stop against a tree and a cyclone fense.
Others used The Courier's comment system to express their grief.
"Johnny, man, can't believe you're gone, " wrote Angelina, "For the whole time I've known you (6th grade) you've always put a smile on my face, always had me laughing...but today is different because you're no longer here with us. but for you, JOHNNY, I will always smile for you as I remember all the things you've done and said you'll always be in my heart no matter what. I will miss you deeply and know that when my time comes you're the first person I come to see so i could see you smile."
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