ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - President’s Day wasn’t the only holiday celebrated on Monday. Around the country, people performed good deeds to commemorate Random Acts of Kindness Day. But one Illinois family is paying it forward for another reason: honoring a loved one whose life ended too suddenly.
Just before Valentine’s Day last year, 78 year-old Richard Gonzales died in a freak accident, crushed by his own car, while delivering Valentine cards to family members. This year, his loved ones are honoring his memory by doing what he did best: helping others.
“So his anniversary was coming up this year, the one year, and I didn’t want to be mournful, I wanted to do something to honor him,” explains his nephew, Ken Cruz. In honor of Vic, as Gonzales was called, Cruz started a Facebook event called Vic's Valentines. The purpose is to encourage others to do good deeds, just as Vic would do.
The oldest of 11 children, Vic always put others before himself. Once he retired, the Army veteran joined the Red Cross, volunteering at the Pentagon after September 11th. “When he went to 9/11, we were so worried that it still wasn’t safe, but he didn’t really care about his safety, he just knew he had this need to help someone,” explains Cruz.
Thanks to Uncle Vic’s legacy and the power of social media, do-gooders jumped on board to help others around Valentine’s Day. Cruz says some were total strangers: “People brought in donuts for their coworkers, shoveled sidewalks since we’ve recently had some snow and ice, visited people who otherwise would’ve been alone on Valentine’s Day to just let them know they’re special, and we actually had another couple pay some of their bills.”
And even though he misses his uncle every day, Cruz hopes somewhere, his uncle is proud of all the good deeds done in his name.
“There’s a lot of things that happened last year in our family that he missed out on, but I know he’s smiling today to see all the people, not only his family, but friends and strangers that have helped to honor him, so that makes me feel good,” says Cruz.