Buckets of flowers, cards, teddy bears and notes have been placed along the gate near the front entrance to Valley View Elementary School since Monday morning.
The items were left in memory of school custodian Carlos Hernandez, described by friends and family as “wonderful” and “full of energy.”
The 55-year-old father of five and longtime La Crescenta resident was killed in an accident following a family boat outing in Lake Havasu, Ariz., on Saturday evening.
Hernandez is survived by his wife, Diane, daughters Karla, Jessica, Priscilla, Erika and Alyssa and grandchildren Vivianna, Arianna and Valentina.
A family friend established a GoFundMe online account, looking to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.
A viewing is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Cabot & Sons Funeral Home, 27 Chestnut St., Pasadena. A funeral mass is set for 10 a.m. the following day at St. Andrew’s Church, 311 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, with burial services following at Forest Lawn, 21300 Via Verde, Covina.
“Honestly, I can’t really put it into words what my dad was like,” said Alyssa, 17, Hernandez’s youngest daughter, who graduated from Crescenta Valley High in June.
“He could walk in and light up a whole room with his smile and personality,” she added. “He was so giving and always cheering everyone on, even if you didn’t know him.”
Hernandez was celebrating the recent purchase of a boat by a cousin in Lake Havasu.
It is believed Hernandez slipped and fell while helping pull the boat out of the water. According to family members, he is believed to have hit his head on the concrete lake-launch ramp and was killed instantly.
The news surprised and saddened the small Valley View Elementary community, which has an enrollment of 450 students.
“Everybody is really just at the shock stage,” Brook Reynolds, the school’s principal, said. “ I found out Saturday night, and I let the community know Sunday morning.”
Reynolds said he and Hernandez enjoyed a routine each school day.
“He was right beside me greeting the kids every day and giving high fives,” Reynolds said. “He went so above and beyond. He was part of our family.”
As parents and students laid gifts at the front gate, Reynolds noticed neighbors without school children were also contributing.
“I saw one today putting a big pot of flowers just because they saw him every day and he would greet them, talk to them and make them feel they are part of the family,” Reynolds said.
Hernandez worked for the district for 22 years and pushed back his retirement date on a few occasions, Alyssa said. Hernandez moved his expected August retirement into December, according to Alyssa, a freshman at Cal State Fullerton.
“He said he wanted ‘to make sure the [Valley View] kids got off to a good start,’” Alyssa said.
Stacy Toy, president of the Glendale Chapter of the California School Employees Assn., or CSEA, remembered Hernandez’s positive attitude as she dropped off her sons at Valley View.
“He always had a smile on his face and a great rapport with the students and staff,” she said. “I saw him a few months ago and he told me how excited he was to enjoy his retirement. He will be missed by all that knew him.”
Toy said Hernandez’s family may apply for the CSEA’s Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund, partially serving families facing extreme hardship. All CSEA members are offered a $5,000 life insurance benefit.
The Hernandez family recently moved to East Highland in San Bernardino County this spring as Carlos Hernandez purchased a “dream home” and was looking forward to extending his grandfathering duties, Alyssa said.
“He left us a wonderful home, and we’re going to stay here,” Alyssa said. “He always took care of us.”