By Miguel Lopez
On a rainy February afternoon earlier this year in Azusa, Raul and Argelia Aguilar sat at the family dining table where their son, Ivan, once shared meals with his sister and two brothers, all younger.
Soon, the family would mark the fourth anniversary of Ivan’s accidental death at age 21.
“More than anything, I believe that every day we _ÀåÂ_Äght to start our day,” his mother, Argelia Aguilar, said. “Many things changed ” It keeps on being something dif_ÀåÂ_Äcult for us.”
Feb. 28 marks the day the Aguilar family lost its eldest son and big brother. On a clear sunny Thursday afternoon, while riding his bicycle north on Kellogg Drive to a 1 p.m. class, Ivan was struck by a southbound car driven by another student. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“It is as if the time hasn’t passed,” his father, Raul Aguilar, said of the 2013 accident. “Feels like it was just yesterday … The feeling is the same.”
Ivan was studying communication with an emphasis in journalism.
Little Ivan, big brother
Four years after the accident, Ivan’s loss is felt deeply from Azusa to the Cal Poly Pomona campus. This is even more remarkable considering the natural turnover of students ” four years is the time from freshman to graduation. This means that Ivan is recalled by many who never knew him, but have only heard of him from others.
His life continues to inspire others ” especially in the student organization Hermanos Unidos, known as HU.
As he did at home, Ivan Aguilar left a deep impression as a brother of HU, recalled today even by young men he never had the chance to meet. Subsequent members continue to cite “Little Ivan’s” example of passionate community service, leadership and gentle manner.
CPP graduate Diego Castro belonged to Hermanos Unidos during Ivan’s time.
“For the organization, he was a big brother _ÀåÂ_Ägure for a lot of the young guys,” Castro said. “All you did was fall in love with him. One of the things that he said was, ‘Once you educate yourself, educate your community.'”
HU graduate Danny Ledezma is the associate director of Community Engagement at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont. His work spans boundaries and communities across the region, working with school districts and diverse communities advancing educational equity. He cites Ivan’s example of passion, community service and focus on the needs of people as individuals.
“It is very similar to what Ivan used to do on his own,” Ledezma said. “I feel like now I’m doing the mission that he wanted to do. He inspired me to change the idea of what I wanted to do and focus more on giving back.”
Gonzalo Aranguiz Salazar, then a 22-year-old engineering student, drove the car that struck Ivan during a few seconds of distracted driving.
His car struck Ivan’s bicycle while the driver reached to the _ÀåÂÛ_oor of his car to recover a dropped cell phone. Salazar was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and sentenced to _ÀåÂ_Äve years of community service.
Salazar spoke with the Los Angeles Daily News in April, while performing part of his community service, warning students at Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta against distracted driving.
He told Daily News reporter Wes Woods the accident will live with him for the rest of his life.
Seeing him in others
After Ivan’s accident, HU organized an annual blood drive ” because Ivan had been a donor. The HU advisor at the time, Lorena Marquez, helped with the effort. Today she is a PolyTransfer coordinator at CPP, implementing programs for _ÀåÂ_Ärst-generation, low-income and underrepresented prospective transfer students.
She recalled the grieving within HU and that those who knew Ivan needed to create purpose from his death.
“The current track and field coach called me and said, ‘You’re going to see Ivan in other students – and that’s going to be the most amazing thing that you can continue to do, the work that you do for him, because you will see him in other students,’ Marquez said.
“There’s not another ‘Little Ivan,’ but he’s always going to be with me. When it gets hard, being able to know that there are Ivans that I am still working for, that helps me to keep going forward.”
Shortly after the accident, Marquez received an email from Cal State Fullerton to discuss a doctorate program about social justice. Two weeks later, she submitted her application to the program.
Ivan provided inspiration to Marquez for her decision.
“I always wanted to get my doctorate degree, but Ivan and his life, and honoring his life, helped me begin the process and the journey.”
Ivan’s father knows his son’s legacy, both on and off campus.
“They still admire him,” Raul Aguilar said. “Not just my children, but many relatives, nephews and friends whom have said, ‘Yes, I want to do that for Ivan because he taught me how to be like this.’ If Ivan donated blood, they also want to do it as well. He was letting his hair grow, to donate to kids who have cancer. All of the family admires him.”
A time for education
Ivan’s youngest brother, Adrian, was 13 at the time of the accident. Now 17, he wears a green CPP sweater and is surrounded by pictures of his brother on the wall in the living room.
“Four years later, I don’t look at it for sympathy but more as an opportunity to get to be the way he saw me to be,” said Adrian Aguilar. “It’s horrible that back then I had to go through that to see it, but in a way, I try to focus more on the positive than the negative.”
Ivan’s death struck the family hard and caused disruptions that have taken time to work out.
His father took time off from work.
His mother, who had attended to the family at home, started working this year.
The family spent time at the cemetery.
The parents became protective of the children, fearing would might happen to them.
The parents asked, “Where are you?” and “What time are you going to come home?” because they were scared that something might happen.
“Adrian tells me, ‘You already educated us how you were supposed to educate us, and you told us what you needed to tell us, the good and bad,'” Argelia Aguilar said. “‘We already know, it is our decision, and if something is going to happen, it is going to happen. There is nothing you can do to avoid it.’ In that respect, he has a point. Only God knows.”
Their daughter, Alex Aguilar, is 22 and studies _ÀåÂ_Älm and media. She is about to graduate from UC Santa Barbara.
When her older brother passed away, she was 18 and a senior in high school.
Alan Aguilar, 19, attends Citrus College and plans to transfer to Chico State in 2018 to study music.
“I don’t think we have changed in any way,” Alan Aguilar said. “Probably just in positive ways, like the way that we see things” or the ways that we try to better ourselves or try to do good for other people.” The family continues to celebrate Ivan’s birthday.
“It sounds strange, but on his birthday, we sing him the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, and we take him cake, _ÀåÂÛ_owers and stuff like that,” Raul Aguilar said. “Many people wouldn’t understand, sometimes not even ourselves because he’s gone, but as long as our hearts feel at peace, we’re still going to keep doing those types of gestures.”
Argelia Aguilar remembers Ivan growing up with his dad talking about soccer. She mentioned that Ivan’s passion was soccer, and he knew a lot of the sport because of his dad.
Adrian Aguilar had forgotten what his brother’s major was at CPP. It wasn’t until recently that he found out that it was communication.
“I want to be happy doing what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life,” said Adrian Aguilar. “Music and movies and everything else like that, that’s what makes me happy and what I want to strive to do. I guess, in a way he kind of did push me to do that because I know me and him had the same mindset.”
Adrian Aguilar might study journalism, but is still not sure. He has applied to CPP as a communication student, and that may result in a future Aguilar Bronco _ÀåÂ_Änishing what his brother had started.
Ivan Aguilar with his family
Show Comments (0)