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The pews were filled to capacity and close to another 200 people stood in the back of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.
They were there to celebrate the life of Nikolas Ventura-Arencon, a Los Alamos High School freshman who died in a car accident last week.
The 800 or so people who came to pay their respects learned more about Ventura-Arencon and the way he died, than perhaps they ever knew about him when he was alive.
Fr. John Carney and family members eulogized the 14-year-old.
Perhaps the most striking declarations came from Carney and Ventura-Arencon’s aunt, Rianne Herrera, who both talked about the teen in the final seconds of his life.
They told a story of a young man who did his best to protect his girlfriend, Divine Fellers, by shielding her when the vehicle he was riding in collided nearly head-on with a pickup truck on N.M. 4 last week.
One of his other aunts posted this on the guestbook associated with Ventura-Arencon’s obituary online: “Not many people know what it’s like to lay down their life for someone they love. You do and I am so honored to say that you are my nephew!”
His obituary also made mention of Ventura-Arencon’s seemingly heroic last effort.
“And to Divine whom he tried to protect, Nikolas cared so much about you.
“We are grateful you were able to know our Nikolas and his love.”
According to authorities, Fellers, 13, a Los Alamos Middle School student, remains hospitalized, in stable condition at UNM Hospital in Albuquerque.
At Wednesday’s funeral service, there was a significant contingent of firefighters as units from Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Bernalillo County and Albuquerque were all on hand. Ventura-Arencon’s father, Diego Arencon, is the president of the Albuquerque firefighters union. The young man wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, according to his obituary.
Particularly striking was the huge ladder truck driven up from Albuquerque, which hoisted a large U.S. flag aloft outside the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.
A couple of hours before the service, Ventura-Arencon’s fellow members of the Los Alamos High School NJROTC paid their respects with a ceremony in front of the church.
A number of Ventura-Arencon’s friends from the NJROTC squad wore an “Ace” card on their shirts.
In his obituary, Ventura-Arencon was said to have “had a wonderful sense of humor, was an avid Denver Broncos football fan and played all sports. He enjoyed skateboarding, wake-boarding, snowboarding, riding motorcycles, fishing, and camping.
"Nikolas was a member of Los Alamos High School ROTC and especially loved shooting and drill competitions. He had dreams and ambitions, as he wanted to be in the Marines and was applying to the New Mexico Military Institute. He also aspired to be a firefighter like his father. He liked to spend time at his grandparents’ land and drive their tractor. He enjoyed working with wood, fixing things and cooking for his mother. He was wonderful with kids. We all will miss him dearly.”