Last week, Maria Diaz of Pasadena honored her son organ donor, Alfredo Diaz, when she decorated the his floragraph (memorial floral portrait) -- part of the 10th annual Donate Life Rose Parade float, "Journeys of the Heart," which dramatizes the ups and downs experienced by donor families, transplant recipients and living donors. She was joined by Al’s best friend, Vicki Kopasz. A Rose Parade volunteer for 25 years, Al was such a Rose Parade enthusiast that he requested to be buried in his white suit with red tie.
Alfredo Diaz moved to the U.S. from Cuba with his family when he was seven. Al always had the gift of gab and made other people laugh. When he was young, he would often entertain his parents and sisters by imitating Jerry Lewis. He made friends easily and, despite having to learn English as a second language, he could talk to anybody and make them laugh.
Al kept in contact with many people throughout the years, whether high school friends, business colleagues, or close or distant relatives. He also loved cooking, both to entertain and to help others, such as the time he helped to cook meals for more than 200 homeless people.
From the time he was very young, Al loved designing and building things and decided he wanted to be an architect. In high school, he liked running, biking and other sports. After receiving his BA in architecture from Cal Poly Pomona, he practiced with different firms and also worked with the San Bernardino County Planning Department for several years.
During his marriage, he was blessed with two children, Austin and Alysse, of whom he was very proud. He also loved his parents, helping them in any way he could.
Another of Al’s passions was his service as a Tournament of Roses volunteer for over 25 years. In fact, he requested to be buried in the classic white suit and red tie that committee members wear during the annual parade. His wish was granted after Al passed away suddenly on October 30, 2011, just shy of his 54th birthday, from heart complications following three brain surgeries in four days.
"Al leaves behind an important legacy," said his sister Marta. "Subsequent to his death, we were approached about organ donation. As a family, we all agreed to the donation of his corneas, skin, certain bones and other tissues. Through our loss, we felt this was important because he would have wanted to do so. We have been informed that Al will be helping between 50 and 150 people battling breast and other types of cancer, as well as cardiac patients.
"We may miss Al, but we also know that he would want us to rejoice. He is healthy, happy and at peace in the presence of the Lord – and probably partying and entertaining everyone in heaven."
Seventy-two organ, eye and tissue donors will be honored with floragraphs that will grace the Donate Life float in the 2013 Rose Parade®. Each of the individuals portrayed in the floragraphs left a positive impact on their family, communities, and those they helped. The 72 floragraphs will line the heart-shaped path rising above 32 riders aboard the float, themed Journeys of the Heart, which dramatizes the ups and downs experienced by donor families, transplant recipients and living donors.
Today, more than 115,000 candidates are on the national organ transplant waiting list. Largely due to the rarity of donation opportunities, only about 28,000 organs are transplanted each year. As a result, 18 candidates die each day for lack of a donor. A single organ donor can save the lives of eight people through organ donation, while a single tissue donor can save and heal 50 others through needed heart valves, corneas, skin, bone, and tendons that mend hearts, prevent or cure blindness, heal burns and save limbs. For more information: www.donatelifefloat.org