“The light amid darkness.”
And in the face of what will be the darkest night of their lives, there sat Azalea, Dahlia, Dominic and Rose — the spitting images of their late parents, Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral.
“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”
That sign sits on the wall of the Corral home, one that was tragically changed forever on Sunday evening when Mary Jane and Adolfo were hit by an alleged DUI driver, who would flee the scene only to be caught and arrested hours later.
Yet, these four grieving souls chose to be present and allow the community that surrounds them to help start the long journey of healing, as hundreds gathered at the site of the crash on Cathedral Oaks Road in West Goleta on Monday night.
More than a dozen community members stepped in front of the crowd, fighting through tears and shock, to talk about the impact that Mary Jane and Adolfo had on their lives.
Among them were a pair of neighbors that didn’t know the family well, but were with them in their last moments.
Ashley, a young man that donned sunglasses to hide her grief Monday night, and her mother, Irene, came to the front to talk about making the 911 call after hearing the “commotion” behind their home that backs up to Cathedral Oaks.
“Ashley sat with Mary Jane. I prayed with her, I was able to rub her hair and comfort her through that,” Irene said. “It’s been really hard hard, last night and today. But the community has been so amazing. It has been devastating, we will always be here for the family no matter what. Just know that there was prayer with them throughout (their final moments).”
Mary Jane’s mother, who wrapped herself around Rose for the bulk of the memorial, motioned for Ashley to come to her, where she thanked her for being with her “baby” in her final moments.
Another neighbor came forward to speak to the peacefulness of the situation, commending first responders on the love and affection they showed toward both victims.
“I just want everyone to know, the family to know, that this is completely honest — it was very peaceful, and there was a lot of love. I had to let you know that she was beautiful, and very, very peaceful. It’s sounds very strange, but there was beauty and there was peace.”
A family friend was thankful for the selfless way that neighbors acted in such a tragic moment.
“It’s important that we know that they weren’t alone.”
Both Mary Jane and Adolfo made their mark on the Goleta community as educators, with Mary Jane working at La Patera Elementary School and Adolfo at Santa Barbara City College.
Mary Jane was remembered as the “kindest and most amazing soul” by the contingent of La Patera teachers and administrators on hand, where Mary Jane aided all of them as one of the school’s technology consultants. She was a 1998 graduate of UCSB — where she met Adolfo — with a degree in Computer Science.
“She was such a beloved member of our staff, of our school. I can’t believe that she is gone. She treated the kids at school like she would treat her own children.”
Mary Jane’s inability to be upset — or even curse — brought laughter to the crowd, with her brother saying that “she was the perfect sister.”
He also was quick to clarify that Adolfo wasn’t just a brother-in-law, “he was my brother.”
He admitted to being the typical “Mexican brother,” warning Adolfo to not hurt his sister.
“But I never had to worry about a thing with Adolfo. They were perfect for each other. They taught me about love.”
The outpouring of affection for Adolfo was intense, with many former SBCC students speaking to his ability to get them on the right track, even in the face of adversity.
One young woman spoke to how Adolfo challenged her at graduation, handing her a pin and telling her to return it once she was out there “kicking ass.”
She intends to wear that pin no matter where she goes now, as a constant reminder of continuing to move forward.
Another student spoke to his lazy ways, only to be met with one Adolfo’s patented, “You’ll be alright.” The student is now a teacher — it all starting with Adolfo, also a UCSB grad.
With the commitment to educating and giving back, it wasn’t lost on many on the impact that had on the Corral family.
“Your mom and your dad did so much for all of us, thank you for letting us borrow them,” one man said to their four children.
A former SBCC administrator added:
“Your mom and dad are carried on through generations of students lives that they have touched.”
On campus at City College, the mood was decidedly somber as the news spread throughout the morning.
“I don’t even want to be here today, but I know I need to provide the students with the resources they need,” said Secel Montgomery as he distributed food to students at the pantry located next to East Campus Classroom 6. “He (Mr. Corral) was a good guy, and he did a lot for the college community. If it wasn’t for him a lot of us wouldn’t be able to do our service work, because students wouldn’t know about it. He did a lot, making sure that things were well known to the students as well as the community. His passing is horrible, it’s terrible.”
Adolfo’s younger brother was inspired by the community to step forward, speaking to always wanting to be just like Adolfo. Being five years behind Adolfo in school, he’d pretty much try to to mimic all that he saw him do. When it came time to take campus visits, Adolfo was by his side.
“He just got it.”
And the Goleta community at large seemingly is following the lead of Mary Jane and Adolfo, shifting their focus to making sure that Azalea, Dahlia, Dominic and Rose are never alone in their respective journeys.
“Don’t ever leave these kids alone, please be a part of their lives. We are going to get them through elementary school, through high school, through college, through weddings, through so many more things in life. Please reach out to them, ask them how they are,” one woman said.
Dos Pueblos High principal Bill Woodard was direct in his promise.
“They will not walk this journey alone.”
Paul Gonzalez contributed to this report
WANT TO HELP?
A GoFundMe campaign has been established, with more than $122,000 of a $300,000 goal already raised by just more than 1,400 donors. To donate, visti: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rip-mary-jane-and-adolfo-corral