Family, school collecting donations to pay for boy's funeral

Feb. 27, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 27, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.

The family doesn't have a lot of things - clothes, toys, even some hygiene products. They don't have a home of their own, not anymore.

And they won't, said Tommi Turrubiartes, until they lay her son, 12-year-old Orlando Navarro, to rest Friday.

All spare change and all monetary donations are paying for the $7,000 funeral and burial costs for the boy who died in a house fire Saturday.

"We are trying to find little badges and handcuffs for him in the casket because he wanted to be a cop. He was always playing around with my girls because he said he had to practice. He would cuff them and say 'Don't resist. I'm here to help you,'" Turrubiartes said, laughing as she remembered Orlando's favorite game.

It was a very serious game, she said, played with water guns to know who was hit and a little, plastic police badge always pinned to his shirt.

Orlando, a seventh-grader at Patti Welder Middle School, never played the bad guy, she said. He was always the cop.

Turrubiartes said they would have buried him in his favorite hat - a 3-year-old, plastic firefighter helmet he got in elementary school - one that was constantly being taped back together, but it was lost in the fire that took Orlando's life and destroyed 75 percent of the home.

"It isn't the material stuff I care about. That comes and goes, and you can get it back. But my - I lost him," Turrubiartes said, battling tears.

The fire in the 1600 block of East Guadalupe Street is still under investigation by the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office, but Turrubiartes said they expect Orlando's body back soon from the medical examiner in Travis County.

Richard Wright, principal of Patti Welder, said the school has raised more than $900 to help with the funeral costs, with donations ranging from from 10 cents from students to $100 from teachers.

"We are trying to get monetary donations in for the service so we can get Orlando taken care of in that respect and it gives the family closure and the students closure, too," Wright said.

He said the school is also accepting clothing, linens and toiletry donations for the family, storing the donations at the school and taking them directly to the family.

"He was a good guy to be around. He was fun and happy. He was just a good kid," Wright said about Orlando, adding that he was active in the Young Men Taking Charge club, which does community service projects around town.

Wright said Orlando loved math and science classes and was talented in his art classes, having just started a self-portrait. Orlando had just finished his eyes for the picture, Wright said.

Lanell Mantey, executive director of the Victoria Business and Education Coalition, said she has been trying to get businesses and charitable organizations around town to donate to the family.

Turrubiartes said about $5,000 has been donated so far, and everything is going to help pay for Orlando's funeral.

Living with her mother in a three-bedroom house, Turrubiartes said her three young daughters share the living room and she and their stepfather share another room.

It is cramped, but she said the family won't look for another place for a while.

"We have just been trying to get everything straightened out for my son. We want to get his stuff done," Turrubiartes said.

A team of grief counselors has been at the school this week. Teachers and students have used the services, Wright said. The counselors will be at the school as long as they are needed.

"If we need more counselors, we can get counselors. It is just a day-to-day process because you never know when it is going to hit a kid or an adult, but especially the kids," Wright said.

Here's our coverage of the vigil that honored Orlando.



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