The turnout for this year's reunion looks like it will be even larger than five years ago with about 50 confirming for the two dinner get togethers and just over 100 for the picnic. We're also learning of the passing of our classmates, one of whom, Benny Rodriquez, probably did more for his home town than any of us. The news comes from Benny's wife Linda."My husband Ben passed away on Dec. 28, 2012, he lost his 6 month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was so proud about being a Santa Ana High School Saint, he always called himself a band geek. Ben served the City of Santa Ana and the County of Orange his entire career. First as a Court Clerk at the Santa Ana Court house, then a Sheriff's reserve followed by a 28 year career with the Santa Ana Police Dept. Ben was recognized by his dept. for his hard work and dedication, a 4 time Investigator of the Year, Latino Peace officer of the Year, along with many commendations."
Our thoughts are with Linda and Ben's family and also with his example of a life of hard work, honor and service to the community. Here is the story from the Register.
SANTA ANA – Benny Rodriguez, a retired longtime Santa Ana police officer and investigator with deep ties to the community, has died at 62 after a battle with cancer. Rodriguez – whose father, Frank, was the city's first Hispanic police officer and whose grandparents were among the first people to settle in the Logan neighborhood – will be remembered at a viewing and a vigil service Thursday and at a funeral Mass on Friday.
Benny Rodriguez, right, with his brother, Richard. Rodriguez, a retired longtime Santa Ana officer and investigator with deep ties to the community, died recently after a battle with cancer.
COURTESY RODRIGUEZ FAMILY
Born in 1950, Rodriguez grew up in a home behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Church near Third Street and Grand Avenue. In 1972, he began working as a courtroom clerk in Orange County Superior Court, a position he kept when he also became a reserve deputy with the Sheriff's Department six years later.
In 1980, Rodriguez joined the Santa Ana Police Department. He worked his way up from a patrol beat to the crimes-against-persons detail. Colleagues say he was awarded the first of his three Investigator of the Year awards during his first year in the unit.
Rodriguez was known for his tenacity in following a case to its resolution as well as his interrogation abilities and his skills at reading people.
Colleagues say he used his serious disposition to his advantage, often using his stern demeanor to get to the truth.
"Above all, his work ethic was second to none. But he was also compassionate. He saw himself as the last line of defense and justice for victims who couldn't speak for themselves any longer," said David Valentin, a former partner of Rodriguez's in the crimes-against-persons unit who now serves as chief of the Santa Ana schools police department.
"He cared about the people behind the cases. They weren't just a number on his desk."
Ferrell Buckels, a retired investigator who worked with Rodriguez in the homicide unit during the mid-'90s, recalled Rodriguez's work on a case that took more than a decade to resolve.
It involved the death of Philip Cousins, found shot to death in the trunk of his Honda Accord in 1994. Rodriguez and his fellow detectives identified Douglas Mireles, an apartment manager who worked with Cousins, as their suspect but were having a difficult time coming up with evidence. Rodriguez learned that Mireles had purchased a handgun before the killing, but the barrel of the weapon had been drilled out, preventing investigators from matching it to the bullets that killed Cousins. Rodriguez returned to the suspected crime scene – a neglected storage room in an underground parking garage – and methodically searched the darkened, grease- and dirt-covered room, eventually finding several drops of blood the crime lab tied to Cousins, Buckels said.
The case went cold until 2006, when Buckels and a partner re-opened it, persuading the department's ballistic examiner to use state-of-the-art 3D technology to re-examine the damaged gun. They were able to match the gun to the bullets that struck Cousins, and Buckels made sure Rodriguez was the officer who put the handcuffs on Mireles.
"He was without a doubt the hardest-working, most diligent detective I was ever with," Buckels said. "The work that he did, it was the best."
Family and colleagues say Rodriguez's attention to detail extended to his woodworking projects and his "immaculate" home and yard.
"He never said a lot, but I think what made him remarkable is that he spoke by his actions," said Richard Rodriguez, Benny's brother. "His attention to detail, whether he was working a case or on a project – he was never someone who cut corners."
Despite the accolades from his colleagues, family members described Rodriguez as humble, never trying to be the center of attention or chasing awards. "He just felt it was his job," Richard Rodriguez said.
In addition to his brother, Benny Rodriguez is survived by his wife, Linda; his daughter, Marina; and his sister, Linda.