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Vegas to honor DWI victims

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By The Staff

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the loss to the community of Las Vegas of the Paul and Renee Gonzales family.

The family was returning from a soccer match in Bernalillo when a wrong-way driver, with four times the legal alcohol limit, took their lives in a head-on vehicle collision.

Paul Gonzales, 36; his wife, Renee Collins-Gonzales, 39; their daughters Jacqueline Gonzales, 11; Selena Gonzales, 11; and Alisha Garcia, 17, who was Paul Gonzales’ stepdaughter, died. Another daughter, then 15-year-old Arissa Garcia, survived and is living with Ray and Cathy Collins Sr., her grandparents.

In honor of the family and to provide a daily reminder to those who pass by the intersection of Mills Avenue and Second Street in Las Vegas, an educational project spearheaded by the Las Vegas City Schools board, staff and students will begin at 1:30 p.m. Sunday with a groundbreaking ceremony.

“This initiative is intended to commemorate life, provide a place of peace and reflection and serve as the beacon for all of us to always remember the great loss of this wonderful family and their contributions to our community,” said Elaine Luna, president of the school board.

Superintendent Pete Campos said, “This magnificent project hereby known as Paul’s Corner will be a daily lesson and reminder to all who pass by or visit this spirit of life memorial that life is precious, and it can be taken in an instant just because of a senseless act or reckless behavior.”

Ramon “Swoops” Montao, the board’s vice president, said the district wants the project to serve as a positive educational statement.

“An example of what I mean is, every time a West Las Vegas High School student drives by or every morning when Robertson High School students turn the corner on their way to class and every afternoon as they leave campus, we hope they are reminded when they see this memorial that it is important to be safe, be responsible drivers and never take each other for granted because we never know when our last moments here on earth will be,” Montao said.

The groundbreaking is the first satellite project of the Memorial of Perpetual Tears Inc.’s New Mexico National DWI Victims’ Memorial along Interstate 40 in Moriarty. This statewide and national initiative, started by Sonja Britton who lost her son to a DWI driver, is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives due to drunken drivers.

This educational project is known as Paul’s Corner because this location with the giant cardinal on a pedestal was his favorite place. It will honor the memory of the Gonzales, Collins and Garcia family members lost in the tragic Nov. 11, 2006, accident. It will also recognize and celebrate the life of Arissa Garcia.