Bench dedicated to 13-year-old girl who died last MayOyuky Rodriguez made a big impression on people during her short life.
When she accidentally choked to death May 7, 2009, the 13-year-old Cottonwood Middle School student left behind grieving parents, relatives and many friends.
Gone, but not forgotten, CMS students inspired by Rodriguez’s effort to overcome disabilities that prevented her from talking decided to erect a monument in her memory.
Exactly one year after her death, more than 40 students, teachers, friends and relatives dedicated a bench to her in front of the CMS administrative office Friday, May 7.
A special needs student from the time she entered the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District as a second-grader, Rodriguez’s teachers helped her progress through the grades. She made many friends along the way, according to her mother, Meily Contreras.
“She was very popular,” Contreras said. “She was very well loved. Her attitude, her charisma, it was just her. She liked people.”
Rodriguez was part of the CMS inclusion program, so she was attending classes with typical able-bodied peers, CMS Principal Denise Kennedy said.
“We have fond memories of Oyuky and her hats,” Kennedy told the gathering. “She loved hats. She would wear them and share them by placing her hats on others’ heads.”
Rodriguez loved her fellow students and loved any attention she got from them, Kennedy said.
Rodriguez also enjoyed music and dancing. She frequently directed one of her CMS teachers to turn the radio on in the classroom so she could dance with him. Kennedy said.
“She would come in the morning with that beautiful smile and look at me, her head tilted, until I acknowledged her,” she said. “She was a beautiful young lady and is greatly missed.”
Contreras said she still suffers from the loss of her daughter.
“It was very hard,” Contreras said. “It gets harder and harder.”
The memorial bench came as a surprise and a comfort she said.
“I really appreciate what everybody did for her, the teachers, the principal, the [CMS] Student Council, by keeping her in their hearts and minds even a year after she died,” Contreras said.
“Oyuky, our special angel, will shine in the sky like a wishing star; she will watch and protect her family and friends. Oyuky will live in our minds and hearts forever,” she told the gathering.
To help the Rodriguez family defray the $10,000 expense of their daughter’s funeral, people may contribute to the Oyuky Rodriguez Memorial Fund at Chase Bank, COCSD communications director Keith Steele said.