Trevor Katz was tough — just ask his father, Jared.
As a youngster, Trevor was obsessed with the rules, making sure that not only did he do the right thing, but also those around him needed to be in lockstep as well.
At 5, he spent a summer at Safety Town — a local nonprofit that focuses on teaching kindergartners about safety — and returned a backseat driver.
“Man, if I was driving the car, he was tough. He was all over me about me changing lanes or if I dared to do a rolling stop at a stop sign, I got a speech,” Jared recalled.
That passion for safety, for kindness, for family — it was how Trevor, 16, would build his life.
That life came to an end on Feb. 3 due to a rare liver condition called biliary atresia, a rare disease that occurs in infants, with most symptoms developing anywhere from two to eight weeks after birth.
Only one in 15,000 people are afflicted with the disease.
At three months, doctors performed a risky procedure, initially making the infant sick.
But the kid with the infectious smile would slowly, but surely, show signs of fighting back.
“Something clicked inside of his body and he started to gain more and more weight,” said Jared, talking to hundreds gathered at Dos Pueblos High for a public memorial on Sunday morning.
“And he started to grow and grow. The doctors told us that something inside of Trevor was very, very strong. He had a strong life force, he was a fighter. Eventually, Trevor grew so big that he was the biggest one in our family.”
Standing at 6-foot-6, the 16-year-old took pride in being an inch taller than his father.
“He took enormous pleasure, especially if I told him to clean up your snacks or your room, he’d come up to me and look down at me and say, ‘Not happening shorty.’ I will miss that,” Jared said.
Safety Town would become integral in Trevor’s life, counting the years until he could become a counselor to help the next generation of rule-followers.
He’d make sure his counselor application was in on the first day that they’d be accepted, his participation a foregone conclusion.
Jared passed on a message from a staff member at Safety Town:
“What I love most about Trevor, is that he didn’t care that the songs that he had to sing were dorky. He sang them because he knew it made the kids happy. He wasn’t worried that raising his hand for yet another Smokey Bear skit or to be the voice of Bert or Ernie to demonstrate fire safety, might be uncool in the eyes of his peers. He did it because he loved it. He loved his job, he took his responsibility for taking good care of his kids very seriously.
“Honestly, he could have run Safety Town if he had to.”
And run he did — for the Dos Pueblos cross country and track teams, a place where he’d become known for running with a rainbow propeller hat that was worn by dozens on Sunday.
Trevor’s spirit was on display immediately for Chargers’ coach Nash Jimenez.
On the first day of the cross country season, Mr. Jimenez admitted that it’s one where he tries to weed out those that can’t handle the strain of running on tough courses in the heat.
Due to his stature, Trevor stood out. Mr. Jimenez isn’t good with names, recalling that he gave Trevor a bit of push as they ran Hamburger Hill across the street from the high school.
“Hey, Stringbean, we got to get going.”
Trevor comes down the hill, looks to Mr. Jimenez and retorts, “Name is Trevor.”
Mr. Jimenez returns, “OK, Stringbean.”
“It stuck. He seemed to like it, and I did too. He was the only one with a nickname on the team. If you get a nickname from a coach, that’s pretty good,” Mr. Jimenez said.
Trevor’s attitude was also impeccable, passing by Mr. Jimenez after that initial run and offering:
“Thank you for the workout.”
Mr. Jimenez was floored.
“I’m trying to eliminate this kid. He’s thanking me for practice. This kid is going to hold onto the team, and I really need him.”
Trevor’s older brother, Owen, made a decision a couple of years ago to stay home and attend Santa Barbara City College, putting off going to New York University.
He would often return home, searching for his younger brother.
He’d find him snuggled in his favorite white blanket, playing simulated games dealing with firefighters or law enforcement.
And while Owen was the older brother, he admitted that Trevor was more mature in many ways. Trevor would land a job first, working at the Santa Barbara Zoo and opening up his own bank account.
“He had started his retirement account, he would always brag to me or make fun of me for not doing it before him,” Owen said. “He was always on top of everything, where I normally tended to slack off. That’s just wasn’t how he would do things, he just wanted to take care of everyone.”
That didn’t mean that Trevor was immune to some good ribbing by both Owen and Justine, Trevor’s younger sister.
Nicole, Trevor’s mom, recalled a trip to the Natural History Museum to visit the butterflies. As they toured the exhibit, a butterfly landed on the gangly 6-foot-6 Trevor, causing him to jump.
“This started the myth of Trevor being afraid of butterflies. which was comical considering his large stature,” Nicole said. “From then on, Justine and Owen would tell anyone that would listen that their brother was afraid of butterflies.”
A gentle giant, Trevor was remembered by many as someone that would stay after class to help a classmate or teacher.
He was also gifted as a student, taking pride in tutoring freshmen in the Dos Pueblos Engineering Program, where he would commonly be approached to help with questions “because he didn’t make us feel stupid.”
While his dream was to serve the community by becoming an EMT or nurse, his acumen with computers also landed him a role in helping Kellogg School install a new computer system when he was in sixth grade. He was the only kid to help.
“He was so proud that he had power over the entire Kellogg School,” Nicole said. “He had the passwords, he could change the system at any point. He was entrusted with that, but he did not abuse that power.”
As a rule-follower, that simply wasn’t in his nature. He was all heart, all the time.
And, sometimes, Trevor’s ability to touch someone’s life was almost subconscious, coming naturally in the most unexpected moments.
“My oldest son Owen slept soundly through the night, Trevor, however, would get up almost every night, just to use the restroom,” Nicole said. “Each time he did, my Super Mom radar would hear him get out of the bunk bed he shared with Owen and walking down the hardwood floor. Everyone else would be oblivious and fast asleep. And every time he would stop by the entrance to my open door — because I sleep with the hall light on and my door open — and he would half-asleep say, in the cutest kid voice, ‘I love you, mommy.’ He’d do his business and go back to bed.
“My heart just melted every time he said it. It was like a reflexive action and he didn’t even remember it in the morning. And I would fall back asleep with a smile on my face.”
And Trevor wouldn’t have it any other way.