Family, friends remember Havasu teen John Mendez
At 17, he was on the cusp of manhood. In recent years, the Lake Havasu High School junior took on adult responsibilities and had “family man” written all over him.
While Johnathon Mendez was not a father himself, he put his family first above everything else. In many ways, he was a typical lanky teenager. He and his buddy, Jeffrey Azar, liked to hang out, listen to rap music and play video games. Still, he was a serious young man when it came to looking after his mother and siblings. The void he has left will be felt years to come.
John, as his family and friends called him, lost his life early Tuesday morning in a single-vehicle car crash on State Route 95. As the initial shock of their loss gave way to grief on Wednesday afternoon, those who loved John the most remembered their son, friend and Boy Scout.
“He was really helpful to me and so responsible,” said John’s mother, Nina Turner. “He always did things by the book. I can’t believe this has happened.”
She takes a small measure of comfort in knowing that parts of her son were harvested to help others.
“He can keep on giving,” she said, which she believes was so in tune with John’s compassionate nature. In fact, he was waiting to turn 18 so he could donate a kidney to help his grandfather.
John’s compassion reached beyond his family, she said. As a brother to a disabled sister, he tried to help with other disabled people as well. He often volunteered with the Shining Stars program at the high school and would go with the group on field trips to help keep track of everyone.
His father, Ismael Mendez, said his eldest son had a knack for making him laugh. He also appreciated John’s stick-with-it-ness. He had been a member of Boy Scout Troop 25 in Havasu for 10 years.
John enjoyed scouting so much that he took a trip last summer with his troop to Catalina Island where the scouts have a facility, Camp Emerald Bay. The scouting staff was so impressed with John that they hired him to stay on and work at the camp for another month. He was planning to return as an employee in summer 2019.
Former Troop 25 Scoutmaster Doug Esmay said John was “a great kid. The boy did nothing wrong. I wish we’d had 20 or 30 more just like him in the troop. He had a good heart. Family and God was the center of his life, and his family’s life,” Esmay said.
A big part of scouting is learning and doing and meeting challenges. Esmay recalled one such incident that happened on Lake Havasu with John and his younger brother Ismael.
“Now you have to remember that these two boys had never been in a canoe before. So they go out on the lake together, but they keep paddling around in circles. Then the wind comes up and pushes them farther away from the shore. I’m sure it had to be scary for them.
“We finally got them back to shore and John hopped off the canoe. ‘I never want to do that again!’ John said. And I told them, ‘If you let me teach you how to do it right, I think you’ll like it’,” Esmay said.
The Mendez brothers accepted Esmay’s instructions and learned to control the boat.
“After they figured it out, we couldn’t get those boys off the canoe all day,” Esmay chuckled.
Havasu High sophomore Jeffrey Azar will miss John’s friendship. He will remember that John told great jokes, he loved playing basketball, his favorite meal was homemade spaghetti and meatballs and that John was very devoted to his girlfriend of four years, Abby Lovel.
He also spoke of John’s love for his family.
“With him, it was family first. He always stuck with them, no matter what,” said the teen.
The two had been friends since second grade. There’s also another thing about John he’ll never forget.
“I never actually saw him wear shoes. With him, it was always socks and sandals. Even when he was playing basketball down at State Beach, there John would be, running around the court in socks and sandals.”
The Mendez family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for John’s burial in Fallbrook, California.
The page can be found at https://tinyurl.com/JohnathonMendez.