Joel and Charmaine Gallegos Friday evening recalled a young son who in their eyes, was just starting to grow up. The parents were just beginning to give a maturing child smaller freedoms and more responsibilities–opportunities that ended tragically earlier this week.
Their only son, Dominick Gallegos, 12, collapsed and died on a Colton elementary school ground Tuesday afternoon; San Bernardino County Coroner’s officials ruled that the sixth-grade student at Ulysses S. Grant Elementary passed away from natural causes due to an enlarged heart.
Even as the family and community continue to question events surrounding the boy’s death, family members say that Dominick was a happy student who loved to smile.
“He didn’t really like homework, but in the past few days he would come home, grab a bowl of cereal, and run to his room to do his math homework,” Dominick’s father Joel Gallegos recalled.
As the parents sat in the dining room of their North Colton residence on a wind-swept evening, it was readily apparent what a joyful child Dominick was, according to his mother Charmaine Gallegos.
“He would find a way to interact with children of all ages–that was just Dominck, he enjoyed to play so much.”
The 12-year-old was an avid basketball and Ken Hubbs Little League baseball player, loved X-Men movies, and amused his parents by participating in a recent school play.
“It surprised us. He never showed any signs of wanting to be in a play, so when we found out we were so excited; he was going to be the star, he had a lot of lines. He did so good and worked so hard in that play. That’s something I’ll always remember,” Charmaine Gallegos recalled.
Like boys typical of his age, Dominick was growing at a rapid spate, something his family took note of in amusement.
“We remember when our older daughter started school last fall, she was taller that Dominick,” laughed Joel Gallegos. “By the time she came back a few months later for Christmas, he was taller than her.”
With looming remembrance services ahead, the Gallegos’ say that they hold on to special memories of their son. The best ones they say are the ones that were routine, everyday occurrences.
“The hardest thing for me is when I would come home from work and he would ask me how my day went. He would always, always, always tell us he loved us,” remembered Joel Gallegos. “My struggle is remembering him because there are so many good memories. Everyday he did something to make us laugh and please us.”
For Dominick’s mother the early routine is especially difficult. “Every morning that was my thing: Getting his clothes ready and doing his hair. He would always give me a kiss and give me a hug. There were sometimes that he would run back and give me another kiss. He would keep going, looking back at me as I looked at him, and wave to me. It’s like he knew those things met something to me as a mom.”
The family says a viewing and memorial service are scheduled for Thursday April 21 from 5-7 p.m. at Colton First Assembly, corner of Citrus and Pennsylvania Avenues in Colton. A service is scheduled the following morning at 10 a.m. at the church with burial following at Green Acres Memorial Park in Bloomington.
Besides his parents, Dominick Gallegos is also survived by two sisters Illisa, 20, and Gabriela, 7.
When he was asked how people who never knew his son should remember the boy by, Joel Gallegos answered succinctly. “You can’t find a picture without him smiling. Someone who doesn’t know Dominick–I’ll be honest: I’m sorry you never got to meet him. He was a beautiful kid.”