When Mary Jane and Adolfo Corral were tragically killed in an alleged DUI hit-and-run on Sunday evening in West Goleta, they not only left behind four children, but they also left behind a community of students, coworkers, teachers, families, and friends, whose lives were all made better having known the couple.
That community honored their beloved friends Wednesday and gathered for a vigil at Santa Barbara City College’s West Campus.
The evening was full of tears and some laughter as students and faculty from SBCC, where Adolfo worked for 15 years, and La Patera Elementary School, where Mary Jane worked for seven, shared the impact that the Corrals had on their lives.
It was clear that the Corrals created a legacy of putting other people first, for which they were well loved.
Among the anecdotes and fond memories, friends of the Corrals reminisced about the couple’s favorite sayings. For Mary Jane, it was “It’s going to be ok,” said Gloria Ino, third-grade teacher at La Patera.
“Those words crossed across Mary Jane’s lips so many times. I can still hear her voice telling us, ‘It’s going to be ok.’ Giving, compassionate, selfless, loving: those words are understatements to describe a friend, teacher, mother, wife, sister, daughter, and aunt who always saw the light in people and the silver lining in every situation,” said Ms. Ino.
The Corrals brought their children to La Patera 15 years ago, and were an integral part of the school ever since. Adolfo himself was an alumni, and Mary Jane worked for the school as their computer specialist.
“I always told people that La Patera was darn lucky to have Mrs. Corral, our computer specialist. With a degree in computer science and a brain like a computer, she could have landed a job anywhere,” said Ms. Ino.
A member of the PTA and a parent classroom volunteer, Mary Jane poured countless hours into organizing materials, helping on field trips and celebrating the school’s accomplishments every year as editor of the yearbook. Her coworkers remembered her as approachable, supportive, gentle, dedicated, knowledgeable, and humble, and were grateful to have known her.
“Both she and Adolfo would tell you to get involved. Make choices to benefit the next generation of Tigers, or Seahawks, Bulldogs, Falcons, Eagles, or whatever your mascot. Do it with a smile and remember it’s going to be ok,” said Ms. Ino.
The crowd nodded and smiled. They knew that those weren’t empty words. Adolfo and Mary Jane lived them out.
With love and hard work, the Corrals invested in the children and young adults in their community, and the impact was on full display Wednesday.
“As a lost confused troubled kid coming into EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) the summer of 2012 to do the Running Start Program, I had no one to guide me. That’s usually what it’s like for a first generation college student,” said Alisha Sanchez.
Luckily for her, she met Adolfo.
“That man saw something in me that I never saw in myself,” said Ms. Sanchez as she held back tears. “Adolfo was my go-to. He was my mentor. He was my friend, and he was my number one supporter, and I know he was that for many students and not just myself.”
Adolfo never lost contact with the students he helped, and was always there for them when they needed advice. When Ms. Sanchez graduated from City College, Adolfo gave her his nametag and told her to give it back when she got a Bachelor’s Degree and returned for her own career at SBCC.
“I’m still waiting for Paloma to order me mine,” said Ms. Sanchez, who now works at EOPS, “But for now I’m going to hold on real tight to this one because I have so much more to accomplish in order to make Adolfo very, very proud.”
Daniel Gonzalez, a close family friend, shared how his friendship with Adolfo started when Adolfo reached out to tell him why he didn’t get a student job he applied for, and what he could do better next time.
“He worked with a lot of us to make sure we got to where we wanted to be,” said Mr. Gonzalez.
“I just wanted the kids to know, a lot of us turned out OK because of your parents, and we only spent a fraction of the day with them. You guys have in your mom and your dad — I can only imagine how amazing you guys are going to be.”
At the end of the vigil, the couple’s 20-year-old daughter Azalea, the oldest of the four children, spoke.
She shared with the crowd letters, messages and comments that she had received telling her how grateful people are to have had Adolfo as a mentor and Mary Jane as a friend.
“A lot of people have been telling me that from all over California. Irvine, San Diego, even people in Riverside I don’t know, said they heard about it and recognized me from pictures,” said Azalea. “People keep talking about how positive (Adolfo) was. How he was a great asset to SBCC. The students treasured and loved his endless support and guidance. I know they would appreciate everything from everyone.”
Azalea ended the vigil with one last comment that summed up the night.
“She said, ‘He was a fucking legend and deserves to be remembered forever.’ ”