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Mike Ascolese: Farewell to a fallen friend

SCV Voices

Posted: May 12, 2009 7:38 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Bobby Corrales' family and colleagues put together a mural as part of their tribute to their fallen friend.

 
Thursday was the memorial service and funeral for Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy Robert Corrales, who was stationed at the Santa Clarita Courthouse for more than a decade and died April 23.

The Mass at St. John Baptist de la Salle Parish in Granada Hills was so packed, many mourners had to listen in from outside the church.

The officiate, Father Norm Supancheck, had a down-to-earth sense of humor that Bobby would have loved. There were people present from all walks of Bobby's life - law enforcement personnel (current and retired), family members, bikers sporting their colors, baseball players and friends of all ages.

Several friends, as well as Bobby's four sons, gave eulogies, and some of the remembrances were filled with hysterical stories about Bobby and his shenanigans. Instead of a somber mood, the church was filled with laughter and the celebration of one special man's life.

The first of two special speakers that morning was Mike Gillespie, the baseball coach at California State University, Fullerton, who first coached Bobby at College of the Canyons. Gillespie's tales of his first and second meetings with "Sitting Bull" (his name for Bobby), were outrageous.

Mike even told the story of how Bobby went from being an ineligible player due to poor grades to making the dean's academic list, literally overnight.

The second special speaker was Steve Smith, who has been the third base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, and played baseball with Bobby at College of the Canyons and Pepperdine University. Smith credited his career in Major League Baseball to advice given to him by Bobby back in their college days. He wanted to be a fireman, but Bobby convinced him to stay in baseball.

The common theme in each of the tributes was Bobby's lust for fun and importance of family.

The burial was held at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery. The Sheriff Department's Emergency Operations Bureau and Health and Safety Unit did a wonderful job coordinating the ceremony.

The Sheriff's Department's Honor Guard was sharp. There were also uniformed representatives from the Los Angeles Countty Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Burbank Police Department. The United States flag that had draped the casket was presented to Bobby's widow, Olga, by Sheriff's Department command staff after the honor guard performed the flag folding ceremony.

Over the strains of a lone bugler playing "Taps" followed by a bagpipe player's "Amazing Grace" and a helicopter funeral flyover by the Los Angeles Police Department, you could hear the heartfelt sobs of Bobby's wife.

Moments later I heard the distant wail of a police vehicle rolling Code-3, bringing reality crashing back. It made me realize how life does go on, despite the fact your loved ones have passed away.

There was a reception at the Knollwood Country Club later that day. So many people attended, they filled several different rooms. A beautiful slide presentation of Bobby's life was shown, with a soundtrack featuring theme songs of his life. When the baseball montage came up, the accompanying music was "Jump" by Van Halen, one of his favorite songs. My personal favorite was a picture of Bobby wearing a pink tutu costume.

The common denominator in each photograph was his contagious smile. You just could not be in Bobby's presence and without smiling.

I sat at a table with many of the deputies assigned to Santa Clarita Court and laughed and cried through the numerous Bobby Corrales stories they told.

Father Norm made the entire congregation promise to not forget Bobby just because he was being laid to rest, but to continue remembering him in their own way. I guarantee everyone who was present in that church will keep that solemn promise.

Mike Ascolese is a Van Nuys resident and a former colleague and softball teammate of Bobby Corrales. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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