Today I am.
On Wednesday morning, during the wee hours, my granddaughters lost an uncle while their cousins lost a father. My oldest daughter’s ex-husband, Ky Quintanilla (the Head Chef at the newly opened Palettes), lost his brother. Taos lost a familiar face and beloved member of this community. Scott is already missed.
Scott was a talented, creative force, fully engaged in the community – on the radio, in the articulate letters he frequently wrote to the paper, as a teacher at Taos Middle School and as a dad.
This is a tragedy beyond measure; last spring, Scotty’s ex-wife, April Browne, the mother of two of his oldest kids, Justice and Ashley, was murdered in a triple homicide in Dixon. Gun violence is everywhere. Ashley had just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which she was being treated for, and still is. She is only 13 years old.
Once the shock wore off, Scott took charge, started a fundraising campaign, and became Ashley’s full-time care-giver as well as a full-time parent to both she and her brother, Justice. He really stepped up and it did not go unnoticed. He earned a lot of respect for the way he took on the task at hand. Scott had just returned from California with his daughter, where he had taken her for cutting edge Proton treatment. His last post on Facebook showed him wearing an I Voted button.
I know who he didn’t vote for!
Scotty and his younger brother, Ky, came to Taos with their father Raphael as children.
Raphael Quintanilla grew up all over the world, the son of an American Diplomat who had come to Texas with his parents as a child from across the border, in Mexico. Raphael was at Georgetown University when he met Leslie Kushner, the mother of Scott and Ky. They fell in love and were soon married.
Tall, blonde and beautiful, her genes shine on in all four of her granddaughters. one of whom, Scott’s oldest daughter, is named for her. My grandaughter Natalya, has her second name, Christine.
Soon after Scott was born, Raphael and Leslie traveled to Mexico in search of his roots and the mystery at the heart of Mayan country. And there, in Palenque, Ky arrived into this world. Who could have guessed that their blissful idyll in the jungle would soon been torn asunder by Leslie’s diagnosis with the cancer that killed her when Ky was just a baby?
Raphael, devastated, took the children to their grandparents who had retired in San Antonio, before relocating to Taos, where he raised them.
Fast forward to the early 90’s, my kids and I were spending a lot of time at the Pueblo, where Rhoda Concha-Hopper had a shop in her family’s house beside the river. I worked for her husband, Duane, at the time, and our kids were all the same age and pretty much grew up together.
One morning, again during the wee hours, I awoke to my daughter Angelica talking in her sleep, saying, “Amos is gone.” Two minutes later the phone rang. It was Rhoda’s sister Wanda.
“There’s been a terrible car accident,” she said. “Amos was killed.”
Amos was the son of Glenda, Rhoda and Wanda’s sister. He was a beautiful, bright and shining light taken from us too soon. Three others were in the car that night. Only two survived. Scott Quintanilla’s life was spared that night, but what are the odds of surviving a fatal accident, only to die in one years later?
That’s the question my kids and I find ourselves asking over and over again. My daughters and a friend all survived a terrible car accident in their teens. One sustained critical injuries, the other two were miraculously spared physical impairment. Of course, an Auto Accident Attorney was called for insurance purposes. The most important thing in that moment was to check that everyone was not seriously hurt, but you do have to think long term and call a legal adviser as soon as possible. I just couldn’t stop wondering ‘why do some survive and others don’t?’ Well seatbelts for one (Scott apparently wasn’t wearing his when he was ejected from his car as it rolled into oblivion), and the rest?
God only knows.
But here, this time there are children left behind, two of whom have become orphans in a matter of months; losing both of their parents in such a short time span. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the emotional turmoil they each must feel. These children are blessed in that they are surrounded by a loving and supportive extended family, who have their backs and have already made certain that their lives will continue with as little upheaval as possible.
Scott’s youngest kids, two little boys will have only memories, and photographs of their father as they grow up, and the stories they are sure to hear from everyone who knew him. Their mother, Scott’s second wife, Sadie Vernon, also grew up with my girls, and the home my daughter and her husband recently sold, was originally built by her parents. Taos is an intertwined community.
We are all related
So said Dr. Ted Wiard (Golden Willow), when he led a prayer circle at Sadie’s home on Wednesday afternoon, at the request of my daughter, Genevieve. All of us gathered there – close friends and family – joined hands as Ted spoke of Scott and the mysterious ways of Great Spirit.
“All my relations.” He ended the prayer with the ancient Lakota proverb.
For now, the ones left behind mourn their loss, but let’s not forget that mourners need comfort along with the space to grieve. And in this case, one young girl needs all the compassion, love and support we can give. I’m posting a link to the GoFundMe site that Scotty set up for his daughter when she was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.
Ashley still has 5 months of treatment ahead of her. Please give what you can. This is the legacy her father left behind. That we remember the children are the most important thing during times like these.
The photographs of Scotty (including with his daughter Ashley during happier times), were lifted from his Facebook page, except for the shot of Scott in a suit (at her wedding), sent to me by my daughter, Genevieve.