SELMA - Tears were shed, stories were shared, and t-shirts were worn that displayed the words and hashtag“#LiveLikeRamon” inside the Selma High dining hall to mourn the loss of teen Ramon Gonzalez in a Celebration of Life ceremony on Nov. 21.
The dining hall was packed full of Selma High students, athletes, teachers, coaches, and members of Gonzalez’s family, many of whom were sobbing and staring at a sideshow of pictures of the teen. Many of the students in the attendance were his classmates and friends, some of who were his teammates on the Selma High junior varsity football team this past season. Gonzalez was also a track athlete at Selma High.
His track teammates and friends said he was “a fast sprinter.”
“He may not be here, but of course we’re going to remember him forever,” Selma athletic director Randy Esraelian said in front of the ceremony attendees. “No. 20 will always be remembered as a Bear nation athlete and that we’re extremely proud of what he represented.”
Gonzalez unexpectedly died in a motorcycle accident after colliding with a two-axle big rig northwest of Selma on Nov. 17, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol. Drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the collision.
At the memorial ceremony, Ramon’s mother Janet Gonzalez said in tears that playing football and riding his dirt bike were two of the things he loved doing most.
“When he wasn’t playing or thinking about football, he was riding his bike,” an emotional Janet Gonzalez said. “I think ‘Maybe I shouldn’t of bought it for him,’ but he loved that thing and he loved football. He died having love by everyone.”
She recalled that he loved football so much that her late son would wake her up early in the morning to be the first person to show up to practice.
Throughout an emotional night, friends, teammates, and teachers told stories full of funny memories they had with Ramon, with most of them saying he was “full of love, full of life” and was “full of passion.” One staff member at Selma High said “he liked to dance” and did so at a dance at the school one day before his death.
Selma varsity football coach Matt Logue said he held a team meeting the day before Ramon Gonzalez’s death, which was also the Friday before the school went on Thanksgiving break. Logue said the meeting was for returning varsity players and the sophomore running back was the only non-returner in the meeting.
“The way he carried himself and did everything was how to be a young man,” Logue said. “The way he was trying to get himself ready for next year was so impressive to me. If everyone on our team did that, it would be hard for me to believe that we would ever lose a football game. He was that way outside of football in the classroom.”
Selma athletic trainer William Mestas said Ramon Gonzalez was a player that never wanted to miss a snap or game whenever injured. Mestas was looking forward to see him play for the next two years.
“Ramon was one of those special athletes,” Mestas said. “He was one of the best athletes I’ve ever worked with and that’s coming from someone that’s worked on the professional level. Being with those guys, in my mind, it doesn’t matter if he was half my height, I felt like he would be able to make it to that next level.”
The Selma boys basketball game against Madera High on Nov. 20 was the first athletic event to take place after Ramon Gonzalez’s death. Before the game, there was a moment of silence for Ramon Gonzalez and players on the team wore shirts that said “Live like Ramon” before they took the court.
The Bears defeated the Madera High Coyotes 66-55 in overtime in what was described as an “emotional” and “powerful” night by Esraelian and Selma High principal Guillermo Lopez.
Lopez closed out the celebration of life ceremony telling students and everyone in the dining hall to “live like Ramon.”
“If you ever needed to build a foundation from this point forward, this is it. Use it as a foundation to give you the strength, to move forward, to continue... Keep that mind when you face those struggles, when you counter those obstacles as you move on, even after high school. Just use that as a foundation whenever you want to give up.”