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Aftermath of a tragedy

Funds to help family whose members drowned


Michael Garcia-Ixtacua and Jeremy SchollFriends and neighbors describe the Garcia family as close-knit and friendly.

“They were very friendly, very family-based,” said Belinda Graham, a neighbor who lives on the same street in northeast Hillsboro.

Three generations of the Garcia family — Jova Ixtacua-Castano, 42; her son, Michael Garcia-Ixtacua, 13; her daughter, Gabriela Garcia-Ixtacua, 25; and Gabriela’s son, Jeremy Scholl, 3 — all drowned together during an Aug. 25 outing to the Sain Creek Picnic Area at Hagg Lake.

Graham said the family has lived on the street about 15 years and always waved and greeted neighbors as they passed by.

Survivors include Jova’s husband, Ruperto Garcia, and the couple’s daughter, Maria.

“They were a fabulous family. Hard working. They were living the American dream,” said Tony Lawson, a family friend who knows Ruperto through work.

As with anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss, “You’re in shock, devastated,” Lawson said. “But there are moments when you carry on.”

Lawson was at the Garcia home Wednesday evening, Aug. 27, after the tragedy and said Ruperto Garcia and his surviving daughter, Maria, had “family and friends coming in and out.”

In a statement released by the family last week, the Garcia family was described as tight-knit and hard working. The statement described Jova as “the cornerstone of the family. Always doing everything for her family. Such a wonderful sense of humor and she was really passionate about the community in Hillsboro.”

Lawson helped the family set up the Garcia Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo and also set up an online account through GiveForward.com to help with funeral and burial expenses.Gabriela Ixtacua-Castano

“This terrible tragedy has been visited upon this poor family and the heartbreak and loss is unimaginable. Unfortunately, the financial impact will be the second tragedy visited upon this family. The expense arising from this will be substantial,” the GiveForward web page reads.

As of Tuesday, online fundraising had registered $2,340 in donations. Lawson said he set a goal of $20,000, based on estimated expenses.

The family will handle memorial arrangements privately through St. Matthew Catholic Church in Hillsboro, he said.

By Thursday, Aug. 28, a makeshift memorial to the four victims at the Sain Creek Picnic Area was beginning to collect items.

Two bouquets of flowers and several Love Rocks sat on a folding table, draped with a blue cloth and placed lakeside. A sign said, simply, “In Remembrance — En Recuerdo.”

The Love Rocks tradition was started by Tom Robinson and Susan Dieter-Robinson, parents of two Forest Grove girls struck and killed by a car last fall.

The typically busy area was quiet two days after the lake reopened to visitors. It was closed on Tuesday, Aug. 26, while dive teams searched for the bodies of the three missing adults.

A handful of people were in the water Aug. 28 and two more were fishing from the shore.

Robbie Pock of Forest Grove brought her family for a visit to Sain Creek.

“Be aware it might drop off quickly, so go slowly,” she told her daughter, who was wearing a life jacket while wading just offshore.

“We brought a bouquet of flowers,” Pock said. “We’re hoping to bring a little joy today.”

Rian Petrick, principal of Evergreen Middle School, said counselors were at the school Wednesday, Aug. 27, in case students wanted to come in and talk about the tragedy. Michael would have been starting eighth-grade there.

“We had 20 students and some adults come in,” Petrick said. “It was a good day yesterday, giving them an opportunity to talk and reminisce with each other about Michael.”

Petrick said Evergreen staff has also taken a collection and is donating to the family, as well as sending along cards and posters that students and staff have signed.

Counselors are also available to students this week as classes begin. “We anticipate a greater need Wednesday [Sept. 3],” when eighth-graders, students in Michael’s class, return to school, said Scott Schinderle, coordinator of the school district’s “flight team” that handles grief support and counseling.

Everyone grieves and processes differently, Schinderle explained. “Some like to talk one-on-one, some like to just sit and draw or write.”

At Evergreen, students made bracelets and cards and wrote letters. Schinderle said any cards made or stories about Michael that students shared will be shared with the family.

“It’s a proven way to begin the healing process.”



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