We seemed an unlikely pair of friends. Dionisio was born in Panama, lived in the city, was a gentle giant, six feet tall, and built like a linebacker but with a heart given easily to others. Our backgrounds were so culturally different in many ways it is a miracle that we became close friends, but I can't remember any part of my college and early career years without him entwined in my memory. Starting with the first day of classes, Dio sprinkled magic dust on my academic experience with his enthusiasm for life, positive energy, and a way of orchestrating groups of diverse young students into worthwhile projects. I experienced student teaching with joyful energy because of his cheerleading and am forever grateful for having him in my life.
One very cold January night was my second evening as a dorm student after a semester commuting to school and I was anxious. I had fitful sleep the night before never having had a roommate and tossing on a strange squeaky bed. I worried that no rest would make studying difficult, so Dio prodded and pushed me to discover that I slept well at home with stuffed animals. Nothing would do but we bundled up into my car and took off to the mall. Dio stood in Woolworths with me and helped squish teddy bears to try to find the softest one. What a sight we must have made! It began to snow while we were in the store and the roads were slick. The ride home was treacherous and took forever. That silly soft bear did help me sleep, but I am not sure it was worth risking our lives in a snowstorm.
I treasure the notes and photos left by his presence in my life. He got me through study groups in the local diner sipping chocolate sodas and stealing each other's fries, my romantic heartbreaks, the first few years of teaching school and I can still hear Dio cheering next to me in the stands while our friends played an intermural basketball game. Our relationship will continue to inspire and comfort me as I remember him with admiration for his positive energy and gratitude for his time spent with a young unsophisticated girl many years ago.
In his last birthday card to me was a purple bookmark with a quote from John 14:27...."Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." I cherish the privilege of being his friend and took time recently to work on his family history and a Find a Grave Memorial to honor his memory and his wonderful parents, all gone from us but who touched our lives in profound ways.