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Classmates, friends mourn death of Galt student

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Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2003 10:00 pm

Alfredo Romero was a shy English as a second language senior at Galt High School.

Although shy, Romero, 17, was a joker, his friends said. He smiled a lot but could be very serious at times. His favorite food was pizza, and he had bought his first car this summer.

Alfredo Romero

His first communion and the Christmas of 1993 were stand-out moments of the young man's life. He wore his first tuxedo at his communion and his family was all together for the first time that Christmas.

He wrote this in a poster of his life for his English 10 class.

Romero, who would have turned 18 on Sept. 12, drowned Monday while swimming in the Mokelumne River.

Romero was born in Sacramento but he spent most of his life in Mexico. Romero came to Galt to live with his uncle and aunt, Lorenzo and Jovita Gutierrez, four years ago to study. He wanted to be a police officer after graduating from high school.

One day after Romero's death his friends, teachers and family mourned his passing. Father Jerry Ryle and Deacon Rudolpho Rivera of St. Christopher's Catholic Church met with mourning students in the old auditorium at Galt High on Tuesday morning.

Many of the 60 students there had only just learned of Romero's death. Several cried and were otherwise silent in contrast to the bustle of students on lunch break outside.

The two clergymen split the students into two groups.

"A 17-year-old should not die but sometimes does," Ryle said, speaking intermittently in Spanish and English to half of the students, who had crowded in a circle around him. Ryle asked several students if they had experienced a death in the family before. About eight hands shot up.

"So some of us have. Others of us haven't," he said. Ryle asked students how the death affected them and how they felt.

The group was silent aside for a few students who sniffled, others hung there heads low into their hands.

"We are very sad," said one girl, who identified herself as a close friend of Romero.

"It is very important that you try and name your feelings," Ryle said.

The atmosphere was one of shock and many students looked as if they had had the wind knocked out of them.

"There was definitely a feeling of helplessness today," said Laurie Bambas, an outreach counselor at Galt High School. "That there was nothing (his friends) could do."

Students later made posters and wrote notes to Romero's family.

The tragedy comes only four months after the death of another Galt High student, Adam Williams, 17, in a vehicle accident in April.

After school, a group of students and family members crowded in the Gutierrez home.

"We will stay in the house, what else can we do?" Jovita Gutierrez said.

Pedro Gutierrez, his cousin, was to be married Saturday and Romero was to take part.

"Yes, he was very excited to be part of the wedding," Pedro Gutierrez said.

Romero's parents, Alfredo Romero and Benigna Garcia, live in Mexico.

There will be a service for Alfredo Romero on Thursday at St. Christopher's Church from noon to 8 p.m. with recitation of the rosary from 7 to 8 p.m.

To make a contribution for Romero's burial and transport to Mexico, contact Galt High School at 745-3081.

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