He lived to skate.
He loved to help others learn the sport.
And on Saturday, Beeville’s first skate park will be dedicated in his memory.
“It was a really big surprise,” his brother John Loya said. “I didn’t know anything about it.”
Ben died about 14 months ago, as he was coming back from a skate park in Corpus Christi. The car in which he was riding rolled over, killing him and another teen on U.S. Highway 181.
Loya said that the news of the dedication comes at a difficult time.
“My father just died,” he said. “I have been working with the funeral arrangements.”
Ben wasn’t biologically the son of the late John Loya, but that didn’t matter.
“He wasn’t his son, but he was always with him,” Loya said. “He would have been ecstatic.”
For years, Ben had been hoping the city would act to build a skate park.
“He got his skate park,” Loya said. “My entire family was really excited. “We were all just talking about it.
“It is just such a great thing they would do this for him.
“I can’t believe it.
“I cannot believe my brother is still making a mark on this town.
“He is still out there for everybody.”
The park opened last week to a throng of eager skaters.
Dozens gathered to skate the ramps and rails.
For the past week, the excitement hasn’t slowed as eager youths continued to pound the park’s pavement.
On Saturday, everyone is invited back out to the park for the dedication along with special skateboarding demonstrations and contests.
It all begins at 10 a.m. with the dedication of new flagpoles donated by the Veterans of Foreign. Throughout the day, until 2 p.m., there will be skateboarding contests and demonstrations.
The highlight of that will be a giveaway of skateboards by AG/CM, Amstar and Entrust.
Several skating teams from around the area have been invited to appear at the skate park Saturday to provide demonstrations.
However, the only team to have confirmed that they will be there is a group from Corpus Christi.
Councilman David Carabajal will be among the many expected at this weekend’s ceremony.
Carabajal said that he made the motion to council Tuesday to have the skate park dedicated to the memory of Ben despite never knowing him personally.
“I know what it is to lose somebody,” Carabajal said. “A majority of those out there skating right now were friends of Rodriguez.”
Carabajal said that knowing that Ben died coming back from a day of skateboarding in Corpus Christi was more incentive to get this park completed.
“We put it on the agenda almost four years ago so the children of our community in Beeville could have a spot to practice their sport,” he said.
“It is a shame to see a young life leave this earth.
“We promised those skaters that, no matter what it took, we would get that park built.’’
Ben’s mother, Debbie Gomez, said that her son had always doubted the city would ever build a park.
“It is unfortunate that the day he was taken up to heaven he was coming from a skate park in Corpus,” said Gomez, who also had a tree planted at Flournoy Park near the skate ramps in memory of Ben.
Knowing that the park will now honor Ben, brings tears to the eyes of Gomez.
“It chokes me,” she said. “I wish he was with me. But I know he is watching over all these kids.”
She plans to be out there this weekend — with one of Ben’s skateboards ready to ride.
“If our mayor can do it, I can do it,” she said remembering back to the park’s grand opening and watching the mayor take the first ride on the concrete ramps. “I want to do it just one time.”
Carabajal said that remembering Ben is what the dedication is all about.
“He will never be forgotten. He is not gone,” Carabajal said. “I remember reading an old saying, ‘When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.’”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.