ELAC alumnus, disability counselor Ron Aguilar dies at 51

Courtesy of the Aguilar Family
                                                   Photo courtesy of the Aguilar Family

by Jade Inglada

East Los Angeles College alumnus and disability counselor Ronald “Ron” Aguilar died April 22. After years of struggling with his health, he died from liver and kidney failure caused by Hepatitis C at the age of 51.

Yet, his passion to learn and help others will be remembered.

Aguilar was born on Oct. 13, 1962, and grew up in East L.A. as one of six children.

He spent most of his youth focused on his personal life and gang-related activities, up until he got into a car accident in 1981 at 18 years old. It left him paralyzed for the rest of his life.

“His life really turned around after that,” his wife Brianne Aguilar said. “He started taking things seriously and wanted to go back to school.”

Ronald Aguilar earned his GED in 1997 when he was 35 and began attending ELAC shortly after.

Brianne Aguilar first met Ron Aguilar in 2000, while he was covering a story for the Journalism Department about a Chinese New Year event.

“He asked a lot of questions. I thought he was annoying,” Brianne said.

They would meet again a year later through a mutual friend and began dating in 2002. He also earned his certificate of achievement in journalism and graduated with an associates degree in liberal arts later that year.

Brianne said that, while he enjoyed journalism, he put that interest aside in order to start helping others.

Aguilar started taking classes at California State University, Los Angeles in order to become a counselor.

Due to his health, Aguilar would have to take leaves in the middle of the term but made the effort to always continue what he started.

“When he had to stop coming in the middle of a quarter to take care of himself, he would always be there ready for when school started again. He was so motivated and even pushed me to keep trying so we could finish the program together,” Conie Zepeda, a close colleague and co-worker, said.

When it was time for him to start getting his internship hours for his major, Disabled Student Program and Services Director Grace Hernandez allowed him to do his time at ELAC’s disability office.

“I would see Ron often when he’d come by the office while he was a student. He was liked by everyone in the office and everyone outside the office,” Hernandez said.

Aguilar received his bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation services in 2010 when he was 48. He was currently in the process of earning his master’s degree in rehabilitation services.

He became an assistant counselor at ELAC’s DSP&S office and went above and beyond to help disabled students. As a peer adviser, he went out of his way to give advice to students about what classes they should take and career guidance.

“He liked to get involved and participate in fundraising and special events. He liked showing students around the campus and take them all over the place. We knew his health wasn’t the best so sometimes we’d tell him he didn’t have to do that stuff, but he would just say ‘I just want students to see the best of ELAC,’” Hernandez said.

Zepeda said that Aguilar had dreamed of starting a business with her to either help students transition from high school to college or offer support services and motivation.

Aguilar would stop working in order to focus on his health.

In his free time he enjoyed going fishing, watching his favorite football team, the Oakland Raiders, and drawing. He drew on cups using a tattooing technique, and it could take him as long as two days to finish a piece and he drew all the tattoos on his left arm himself.

Zepeda said that one of Aguilar’s happiest moments was when he and Brianne married on Oct. 11. “You could tell that they were both just so happy. It was small and very intimate,” Zepeda said.

Brianne said one of his most treasured possessions was a folder he carried with him every day. “He had all his awards and certificates in it. He was so proud of it,” she said.

The folder held a collection of achievements Aguilar had earned throughout his life, from his college degrees to a dental health award.

His is survived wife Brianne and four siblings.

The rosary will be held at Guerra and Gutierrez Mortuary at 5800 East Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles this Friday. The viewing will be from 5 to 9 p.m.

The burial will take place at Rose Hills Memorial Park at 11 a.m on Saturday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *