A father's somber Christmas wish

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Adrian Rodriguez Jr. died Nov. 6 from injuries he suffered in a traffic accident in Florida. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Adrian Jr. — who lived with his grandparents in Wauchula, Fla. — was on his way home from a church function on Nov. 5 when the van he was riding in was hit by a drunk driver traveling south in the northbound lanes of U.S. 17 in Bartow.

“It’s something that you have to accept that you don’t want to accept,” said the senior Rodriquez, who lives in Grand Haven in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife, Anna; and their three children.

Adrian Jr. is Rodriguez’ son from his first marriage.

The Rodriguez family say they will be happy to see 2011 come to an end. It was a year of trial and tribulation.

Adrian and Anna put in more than 400 of the 500 required sweat-equity hours toward a Habitat for Humanity Home in Spring Lake, then became ineligible when both lost their jobs and fell below the required income levels. The three-bedroom home at 207 Branmar Woods Court that they spent so many hours working on was dedicated to another family last week.

“We would have already been living there,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “We were really looking forward to living in that home. I never told Adrian about it. I was going to surprise him. I never got the chance to tell him.”

Rodriquez spent the $500 down payment money for the home to travel to Florida when Adrian Jr. died. While there, he picked out a gravestone that includes a photo of his son.

“That is my priority,” he said. “I don’t want my son to be without a tombstone. A lot of people from Habitat have been helping out and they donated Christmas presents for my kids.”

Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Beth Hanis has launched a fundraiser to pay for the $1,700 tombstone.

“We have collected close to $1,000 — and that’s just word-of-mouth,” Hanis said. “That says a lot about our community and how giving they are. We even had people give the family presents and gift cards for Christmas.”

Hanis said she has been in contact with the Florida monument company. She plans to send a check directly there to pay for the stone.

“If there’s any money left, maybe the family can drive down there and see the tombstone in place,” Hanis said. “They missed the memorial service because they couldn’t afford to drive down.”

Hanis said she and others in the local Habitat organization feel horrible about all that has happened to the Rodriguez family.

“They just had a lot of unfortunate circumstances all at once,” Hanis said. “Our hearts go out to that family. We hope things turn around for them. There are a lot of people in the community trying to help.”

Hanis said if the Rodriguezes can secure jobs and reach the required income sustainability levels, the plan is to build a Habitat home for them at 211 Branmar Woods Court, next door to the house that would have been theirs had hard times not hit them.

“We can hold it for them for up to a year,” Hanis said.

Rodriquez is currently working for a temporary employment agency, hoping to land a permanent job. He said he hopes the company he’s working at in Holland as a temp hires him permanently.

“This year has been up-and-down rocky for me,” Rodriguez said. “This is something you don’t expect. Adrian had a good heart. He was a really good kid. He never talked back. He was a good athlete and he played football.”

Rodriquez said the last time he saw his son alive was in June, when he spent a week with Adrian Jr. in Florida.

“When I was down there, we went to the beach almost all week,” Rodriquez said. “He showed me his honor roll and fitness certificates. I was so proud of him.”

Donations may be mailed to Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity, 233 Washington Ave., Grand Haven, MI 49417. Note “Rodriguez family” in the memo line.

For more information, call 846-1505.

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