Alex Osorio died on April 24, 2017. He was killed in the woods. He was 22 years old.
When Alex was three his mother moved from Mexico and singlehandedly settled her family in Fort Bragg. Just her, Alex, and older sister Jasmin, then 10, now a young woman of 29.
Alex attended the local schools – Dana Gray Elementary and then Fort Bragg High School, where he graduated in 2013. In 2006, when Alec was 11, another baby was born to his mother, and so Alex became the big brother to that boy. Alex increasingly, and naturally, became the Man of The House that his sister, his little brother, and especially his Mom depended upon.
Alex was a very devoted son. He took care of chores and repairs and was a father figure to his younger brother. As he got older he talked about buying a house for his Mom, and with the work ethic Alex had, it might not have taken him long to fulfill that dream.
In 2011, when he was 16, Alex met Silver Canuto. Silver, who today is 50 years old, but looks more like 30, arrived in Fort Bragg and began working as a dishwasher. Soon he was operating his own successful restaurant in town, Silvers at the Wharf. In time a second restaurant opened – Mayan Fusion.
Silver hired Alex as a dishwasher, and within a very short time had moved him up to busser, and from there into a prep cook position. Silver remembers that Alex was not only intelligent and eager to learn, he was genuinely helpful. Always. The type of young man that was the first to show up and the last to leave. The one to jump in and lift the heaviest piece of equipment during a move. That was Alex. Another thing that Silver remembers about Alex is that in an industry notorious for drinking, Alex was unusually abstemious. Even on the hottest days in the kitchen when everyone else on the crew was having a beer, Alex would not generally drink. Once or twice, perhaps, in all those six years.
Those qualities made an impression on Silver. Within a few months Silver promoted Alex from the prep table to a full Line Cook position at one of the busiest restaurants in town. Alex had moved up fast. Silver's trust in Alex was rewarded by loyalty, hard work, and friendship.
Alex was more than an important employee to Silver. Alex had been instrumental at critical points in the business, including the move, just a few weeks ago, of Mayan Fusion from the its dusty old digs in Noyo Harbor to its shiny new showplace location on Main Street in Fort Bragg. During the long days of physically moving the restaurant and all of its equipment, Alex worked as if he were a co-owner.
When a visitor observes that Silver's relationship with Alex might have been closer than a typical employer-employee, when he suggests perhaps it was closer to a mentor or big brother, Silver quietly corrects his visitor: “No. Alex was like a son.”
Alex took on another job at at the Point Noyo to increase his income and hours – goals that were never far from Alex' mind. He became a regular employee, often working double shifts. That was typical for Alex. But Silver says he was concerned when, in early 2017, Alex approached him and asked his advice about accepting another job. The job would be in the woods. Working in the woods with the timber company.
The job in the woods would pay more. It would be Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. And it would have health care benefits for Alex and his family.
Silver pointed out to Alex that the job in the woods would pay only $200 more a month – money that Silver would gladly match and exceed if Alex could just stay until the summer tourist season picked business up. But in the end, Silver said, Alex' decision had more to do more to do with the regular hours and the medical benefits offered by the timber company. Those family medical benefits were very important to Alex.
2017 was an eventful year for Alex. On April 2, 2017 a baby girl, Ezra was born to him and his partner of 5 years, Mayari. Mayari and Alex had been together since high school. Now they had a beautiful baby girl. And Alex had proposed marriage in March. Video of his lakeside proposal on bended knee, and her joyous acceptance, was posted to his Facebook page. The couple was to be married in September.
In late March 2017 Alex had began to talk with Jasmin and Silver seriously about taking the job in the woods. He must have been aware that the work was more hazardous. But the regular work shifts and family health benefits guided his decision. Perhaps there were other factors as well.
In the event, Alex accepted the timber company job, and began to work in the woods in mid-April. Alex Osorio was killed in the woods in a timber company accident on April 24, 2017 during his second shift on the job.
Silver and his crew, working in the restaurant that day, heard the sirens wailing as the ambulances sped north through town. Towards the woods. A chill went up Silvers spine. Later that day rumors began to filter back to town about an accident had happened in the woods. Of course the thought occurred to Sliver that it could be Alex. But that would be too crazy. Wouldn't it?
Silver drove home after work, exhausted after a long day. His house is beyond cell phone range. The next morning, on his way back into town, Silver had more that 30 urgent phone messages and emails. But there was nothing to be done. Alex was dead. He says: “I can't believe it happened from one day to the next.”
Alex leaves behind his 47 year-old mother, the woman who depended on him as the Man of the House, as only a single mother can depend on her oldest son. She is devastated. When Jasmin told her she was going to meet with a writer about Oso, her Mom said “Oso always wanted to be famous. And now he will be famous. He will be in the newspaper.”
His big sister, Jasmin, 29, a 10-year employee at Purity Market in Fort Bragg, is crushed. Then there is Alex' little 11 year old brother, who by all accounts was as close to Alex as brothers can be.
And Alex leaves behind his young fiance and widow, Mayari, and their baby daughter Ezra. Mayari, who had accepted Alex' proposal and was to be married to him in September. It is a ferocious twist of fate that Mayari's father was also killed in a timber company accident. Her father died in the woods when she was just 4 years old. 17 years before Alex died, almost to the day.
The same woods that took her father have now claimed the father of her baby daughter and her future husband. So Mayari, who was made an orphan of the woods at 4 , is now a widow of the woods as well. And baby Ezra Osorio is also now an orphan of the woods.
Alex Osorio was buried on his daughter's one-month birthday in Rose Memorial Park in Fort Bragg.
Alex's family, his mother, his little brother and his big sister, and most especially Mayari and their baby need help. Donations may be directed to:
MCCF Misfortune Fund c/o
Mendocino Coast Children's Fund
P O Box 1616
Mendocino, CA 95460
(Andrew Scully is a frequent contributor to the AVA. He is he father of three sons. His youngest son, Alec, is 21. Alec is a journalism student at Washington State University in Pullman.)