A loving end – Community rallies to help dying single father and his sons
As he lay dying, David Armijo often found it difficult to express how much he appreciated the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers.
But those who visited the single father of two, delivered his meals or brought him Christmas gifts knew how he felt.
Even in his last days, when he could not utter a word.
Armijo, whose bout with colon cancer and love for his two sons captivated the Union Hill community, died Thursday morning. He was 48.
Services are pending.
“It was complete strangers that helped him through,” said Dawn Netz, who met Armijo in 1992 while working as a bus driver and transporting his oldest son. “Mankind is great, right?”
Since December, when word of the Armijos’ plight became public, community members collected more than $5,000 to make payments on the home he shared with sons, Michael, 18, a Bear River High School senior, and Brian, 13, an eighth-grader at Union Hill School.
The donations allowed Armijo to keep his Nancy Lane home during the final stages of his illness. Netz and friends of the family now have set up a trust they hope will keep any profit from the home’s sale in the young men’s hands.
Michael Armijo now lives with Dawn and Daryl Netz. Brian has been granted temporary guardianship with Brian and Lisa Harrison. Brian Harrison has been Brian Armijo’s soccer coach in the past.
David Armijo, who divorced his wife three years ago, spent his last days at home under hospice care before being taken to Grass Valley Convalescent a week before his death.
While he was at home, Union Hill teachers and dozens of friends stopped by to help keep his spirits up. Netz said he never complained or appeared worried about “checking out,” the term the dying man used to describe his last day.
“I think it’s because he knew we were going to take care of him,” Dawn Netz said. “All I had to do was ask these people and they came from out of nowhere, and it was wonderful.”
Lisa Harrison said she wants to give Brian Armijo a place where he will have one less burden to carry.
“He’s been through a lot in his life,” said Lisa Harrison. Her family has three children, Hannah, 15; Holly, 8; and Henry, 13, who has shared a room with Brian Armijo for two weeks now.
“I think it’s going to work out,” said Brian Armijo, who said he’ll most miss going on camping trips to the Bear River and to sprint-car races in Placerville with his father.
“Brian’s fit in really nicely with our family,” Lisa Harrison said. “We’re hoping to give him a bit of stability for a few years.”
Friends of the Armijo family have done much to try to ease the pain of the boys losing a father who loved riding motorcycles with his children or camping near Downieville.
Union Hill teachers set up gift collection boxes during the holiday season, and Boy Scout troops raked leaves and helped paint the family home.
“I feel very lucky to be a part of this,” Union Hill teacher Kristi Kester said. “It reaffirms my confidence in the human spirit.”
Volunteers spent hours talking to and assisting David Armijo each day. Former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman George Visger and Armijo became friends over the weeks while watching football, eating pizza and sharing sports stories. Visger’s wife, Kester, said David Armijo was well served by his new friends.
“Very rarely did I go over (to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital or Grass Valley Convalescent) and there wasn’t somebody there to help,” she said.
Kester said Armijo was almost always positive.
Armijo had embraced his spirituality of late and died one day before he was scheduled to be baptized by members of Twin Cities Church, she said.
“I never saw him upset or say, ‘poor me,'” she said. “I’m just very sorry that he’s gone.”
How to help
A fund has been established to help pay for expenses incurred by the family of David Armijo, who died from colon cancer. It will be used to pay for household and utility expenses for the family’s home. The account number at Wells Fargo Bank is 3750567509.
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