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Family of late ENHS security officer mourns together for the first time 2 years after his passing

Family and community remember Alfredo Alaniz as a kind father, brother, and security guard

Two years after his death, Alfredo Alaniz’s family gathered for the first time to honor him due to the pandemic. Family and community reflect on the man he was and how hard he worked as a security officer for Edinburg North High School.

Together for the first time in 2 years

The memorial service, held at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church, welcomed hundreds of visitors who paid their respects to Alfredo and his family. Alfredo’s second youngest sister, Clem Garza, Technological Instructional Resources Director for La Joya ISD, was moved to see how many lives their brother touched.

“It was a beautiful service,” said Clem Garza. “We were just very happy to finally pay tribute to him when we were together as a family.”

Alfredo tested positive for the Coronavirus in July 2020 after visiting his sister, Minerva, in Lubbock, Texas. The days progressed, and he continued to test positive.

“It felt scary. We just took it day by day,” said Alfredo’s wife Criselda Alaniz.

Alfredo, unfortunately, passed away on July 19, 2020. Due to high restrictions during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral arrangements were difficult to plan, and family visits were restricted.

“None of us got to see him before he passed,” Clem said, stating that despite the two-year gap, grief remains. “It’s not necessarily closure, but we can celebrate him.”

Alfredo’s daughter, Nicole Alaniz, an employee of ECISD, said the ceremony only confirmed that her father was truly gone and that his absence was now a reality.

“It gave us a way to feel what we couldn’t over the two years,” said Nicole.

Nicole stood alongside her brother Alfredo Alaniz Jr. and her mother Criselda at the front pew of the church, holding hands tightly and lovingly as the ceremony went on.

“It felt nice,” Criselda said, seeing how many people paid respect to her late husband. “It hit my heart that they were still hurting for him and that they knew him…and mourn about him as we do. ”

Remembered by the community

Three of his sisters, Minerva Alaniz, Clem Garza, and Maria Morua, visited the Bearing Witness Spotlight Exhibit at the Museum of South Texas History for the first time the next day after the memorial ceremony. The Bearing Witness Spotlight features stories of those who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

L to R: Minerva Alaniz, Maria Morua, and Clem Garza stand next to a panel showing their brother’s story in the Bearing Witness Exhibit at the Museum of South Texas History on Sunday, July 17, 2022. Progress Times photo by Maria Ruiz.

Melissa Peña, the Collections and Exhibits Coordinator at the Museum of South Texas History, said the exhibit is putting a face and name to the losses of the pandemic instead of just presenting the facts and statistics. The Monitor, Valley Morning Star, and Brownsville Herald, also shared these stories in their weekly paper.

“We realized what we were collecting for future use was very statistical. It didn’t have any personalization to it,” Peña said. “Years from now when people are doing research on this pandemic, they’re going to need more than this.”

Chief Museum Executive Officer Dr. Francisco Guajardo interviewed family members and wrote the exhibits. Guajardo spoke to Alfredo’s sister, Clem, to create the biography of the late security guard.

Alfredo’s exhibit began when the museum received phone calls from community members and former ENHS students who mentioned his passing.

“I truly hope he knew how loved he was by the community. So many people reached out to us,” Peña said. “So many students…came by or called us. We have emails. They remembered him fondly.”

This exhibit opened on June 19 and will remain as a pop-up exhibit until the end of July.

Peña expressed that when someone first called and mentioned he was a security guard at Edinburg North High School, it hit her.

“I remember him as a security guard…my kids…they said hi to him, and he knew them,” she said. “I want to say he knew all the kids though.”

Karla Alaniz Waley was one of many students who knew Alaniz. The 2012 Edinburg North Graduate shared in a Facebook comment section that she would high-five Alfredo each time they saw each other because they shared the same last name.

“I had brought it up, like: ‘Oh, my name is Alaniz too!’ and I gave him a high five after that,” said Waley, mentioning that it began sometime during her Sophomore or Junior year.

Karla Alaniz Waley and Alfredo Alaniz high-five each other in the halls of Edinburg North High School in 2010. Waley graduated in 2012 while Alaniz continued to work at the high school as a security guard until his passing. Photo Courtesy of Karla Waley.

Although the high-fives were simple gestures while Waley passed in the halls, she said it was a kind act for a teen who went through tough times in high school.

“It also continued…after I graduated high school,” Waley said. “I would go take my sister to Truman Elementary, and sometimes he would work there.”

Waley said Alaniz made her feel accepted at a time when she was still finding her style and identity as a person.

“High school is a hard time of your life. You’re trying to figure yourself out,” she said. “The fact that a grown-up would acknowledge me, high-five me, and smile at me…it made my day. I couldn’t even tell you what..my teachers…names were, what they looked like. He was the one that throughout the years that stayed in my mind.”

After his passing in 2020, the Edinburg North High School Staff decorated Alfredo’s podium and placed it in its usual spot by the school administration offices in front of the library. A banner reading ‘we will miss you’ was strung up on the ceiling above, with a blue and gold wreath on the front of the podium, a bouquet on his chair, and photos of him on the wall behind the small memorial. The podium and chair inside ENHS walls were Alfredo’s home away from home for 20 years since he first began in 2001.

Alfredo Alaniz’s chair and podium decorated in memory of him at Edinburg North High School in 2020. Photo Courtesy of Clem Garza.

Final moments and family memories

During his final days, Alfredo was resting in his family home.

On July 19, a day after Nicole’s birthday, Criselda recalls waking up and her husband saying he didn’t feel well. She made him some oatmeal or breakfast and poured him a glass of milk.

“And he goes, ‘Oh that milk was good. Pour me a little bit more,” she said. Criselda then helped him to the living room where they sat during his last moments. Nicole and Alfredo Jr. were there alongside their mother when their father passed.

Nicole remembered seeing her father each day as she attended school at Edinburg North High school.

“It was a comfort that if anything were to happen, I’d know he was there,” she said. “It’s just me saying hi to him while going to eat at the cafeteria.”

Nicole said she always knew her father was proud of her and her brother being his children by how he would look at them.

“There’s a lot of memories we have at the house,” she said. “I always tell people I would be taken by the way he would work. He would go around and have people judge him or put him down, but he would not bat an eye towards that, stretch his shoulders and say, ‘oh well’ and live his life.”

His wife turned back the clock for a moment and shared when they first met.

Criselda and Alfredo met at the Edinburg Hospital when he was assigned to an inmate in the same room as a patient Criselda was checking on. She was a nurse assistant while he worked as a guard with the jail at the time. That day, Criselda recalled praying to God about meeting ‘Mr. Right’, and after seeing Alfredo, she asked for his number.

After several dates and years later, the two married on Monday, December 20, 1993. This year, they would have celebrated 29 years of marriage.

A passing joke Criselda lovingly recalled involved the late Alfredo saying he ‘messed it all up’ for her when they met and fell in love.

“I’d go, ‘Yeah, you had to mess it up big time,'” she said. “But then he would say ‘No, I’m glad.’ I go, “Yes, me too.'”

She then continued. “If I had met somebody else, I wouldn’t have been this happy.”

Whenever she hears Alfredo’s name, Criselda remembers his eyes.

“When we’d go for lunch or he’d call me, I’d just be talking, and I’d just stare in his eyes,” she said. “He was always smiling. It took a while for him to get mad. He was a good dad, a good husband.”

After gathering with family at the memorial service, Criselda said that she continues to struggle to identify as a widow.

“It’s hard. There are some people who try to put a band-aid on the cut. I said ‘no, you can’t…it’ll take a long time,'” she said. “I love him because he’ll always be my love. I don’t think there will ever be a way for me to get over that.”

From L to R: Alfredo Alaniz Jr., Criselda Alaniz, and Nicole Alaniz stand with a photo of the late Alfredo Alaniz during his memorial service at Holy Spirit Catholic Church on Saturday, July 16, 2022. Photo Courtesy of Gabriel Espinoza.

The house the Alaniz family created their lives in has an empty space because of his passing, but the love and memory of a kind, smiling, and happy son, brother, husband, and father fills it to the brim.

“We were a big part of his life. And nobody can take that away from us,” Criselda emotionally said. “We’ll always be here carrying on for him.”

Alfredo Alaniz was born November 6, 1965, as the youngest of 10 siblings, Amadeo, Arnoldo, Albert, Armando, Rosie, Frances, Minnie, Clem, and Maria. He leaves his wife Criselda Alaniz, his daughter Nicole Alaniz, and son Alfredo Alaniz Jr. to carry on his legacy.

 

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