On Wednesday morning, something the then 17-year-old never thought would have happened occurred.
The city opened Flournoy Park to skaters.
“He always said, ‘They will never do it,’” his mother, Debbie Gomez, said as she stood underneath the purple crape myrtle planted at the park in his memory.
“I planted this to let him know he got his park.”
The design of the park is even in the shape of a “B.”
The tree, she said, is a reminder not only of her son but is situated so that from underneath it, anyone can watch the skaters.
“He will watch over all his friends and I can come out here and watch his friends,” Gomez said.
His older brother, John Loya, said that he and Ben have skated most of their lives – not so much now as he has gotten older though.
“I haven’t been on a board since I was 18,” he admitted. “I don’t know how good I would be.”
Loya remembers fondly watching Ben help other skaters perfect the jumps and slides they tried to learn.
“He was a pretty well-known skater here,” he said. “He liked to help out the younger skaters.
“He was like everybody’s big brother.”
Ben’s advice to the other skaters was always – “you can get knocked down but always get back up.”
Across the park, an oak tree, about the same height, also appears recently planted. Tied around its trunk are purple balloons.
It too serves as a memorial to another youth killed in a traffic accident — a friend of Ben.
“She wasn’t a skater,” said Terri Arredondo, the mother of Leslie Arredondo. “But she knew a lot of skaters.”
In 2008, Leslie, the daughter of Mitchell Arredondo was killed in a one-car rollover 3.8 miles south of Beeville on Farm-to-Market Road 888.
The 1998 Ford Explorer in which she was riding was driven by her 42-year-old mother, Terri Arredondo.
Among the numerous balloons tied to her tree, donated by Oscar Carrillo at CNC Nursery, was one formed in the shape of a butterfly.
“She was friends with everybody,” her mother said. “She was like a social butterfly.”
There is a bit of symbolism that these two trees watch over each end of the park as the two youths were close friends.
On Ben’s arm was a tattoo in memory of Leslie.
It read, “Pursuit of happiness.”
Ben’s mother said, “Only they knew what that meant.”
Hopefully Ben was around Wednesday because his mother would surely put his watchful eye to the test.
“I want to skateboard one time for Ben but I will get one of his boards,” she said.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.