Brandon Flores was described by friends as “outgoing,” “adventurous” and “funny.” is teammates said it was “an honor” to have him as a member of St. Anthony High School’s WIAA Division III state championship soccer team.
“He was a player that ran up and down the field; he never quit,” said Cristian Hernandez, St. Anthony High School student.
Flores, 19, drowned July 22 in the Milwaukee River. He was part of the Milwaukee school’s first graduating class.
Members of the St. Anthony community and others helped raise money to pay for his funeral with a car wash and rummage sale on July 26.
“He was a guy who would cheer you up,” Hernandez said.
Jose Bermudez, friend and student at St. Anthony, was with Flores the day before he died, and said he loved to play soccer.
“Soccer was the main thing he liked to do,” Bermudez said.
In the classroom, friends remember him as a naturally gifted student who didn’t like to do his homework.
“He would never do his homework, but when it was time for the test … he knew the answers; he just never did his homework and he would try to help us out,” Bermudez said.
Louis Lopez, friend and St. Anthony classmate, said they want to do everything they can to help out the Flores family.
“He put his friends over everything he had,” Lopez said.
Hernandez said Flores gave himself the nickname “lazy flaco (skinny).”
“He wasn’t really lazy, though,” Hernandez said. “He was there for his mom all the time. He would take her to the hospital … buy her food. Even with us, if we needed something, we wouldn’t even have to ask him. He would know.”
After the word circulated about his death, friends came forward to help the Flores family and to arrange the car wash. Carolina Itsines, director of operations for St. Anthony High School, helped the students publicize the event.
“Before we even started we had a line of 10 cars and since then, it’s been a constant five cars every five minutes,” Itsines said.
Like his friends, Itsines also described Flores as funny.
“A lot of us faculty members looked at his Twitter account just because of the funny things he would say,” she said.
Itsines said he was a happy, respectful student but was also a typical teenager.
“The one thing I can always say is he always had a smile on his face that was very contagious,” she said. “He would frustrate you at times … if he knew you, he knew how to push your buttons and drive you crazy on purpose only, at the end, (to) make you laugh hysterically.”
As the cars rolled in, teenagers with hoses and soapy sponges surrounded each one and cleaned every inch. Some of them wore special T-shirts in Flores’ memory with the word, “smile” on the front and on the back his favorite slogans and Twitter handle @Brandon_blackk.
“He would always say, ‘Shut up, I got this,’” Bermudez said. “We would always get lost (driving) and we’d be like, ‘Go this way, go this way,’ he’d be like, ‘Shut up, I got this.’”
Flores’ brother, Bryan, was at the car wash but couldn’t hear what people were saying about his brother because he is deaf. Flores would often help him with normal activities.
“Brandon was there for him all the time,” Hernandez said. “To get his haircuts, to tell the barber what (Bryan) wanted.”
A memorial fund was started in Flores’ name on www.gofundme.com and in four days more than $10,000 was raised, including $7,852 raised by the car wash and rummage sale alone.
One of the donors, Zeus Rodriguez, St. Anthony School president, gave $100 to the fund. In a statement issued by the school, Rodriguez said Flores was a warm and intelligent student.
“There is nothing we can say that could assuage the loss experienced by the Flores family at this time,” Rodriguez said. “Our only hope is to offer some comfort by extending our prayers and the support of our entire community to the Flores family during this difficult time.”
Jeffrey Robb, St. Anthony School vice president, said administrators at the school have been overwhelmed by the outreach coordinated by the students.
“We think it speaks to the character of the individual students and also their faith,” Robb said. “I’ve been part of other schools and institutions where there’s been tragic responses, but I’ve never seen anything like this where they go so far, to an extent, to help the family.”
The students’ outreach went far beyond the financial needs of the family.
“At the funeral itself, Brandon’s mother … she’s pregnant right now,” Robb said. “A number of the students came together to greet her. They had a wheelchair for her and they literally carried her into the church for the service.”
Itsines, who has been with St. Anthony School for 10 years, said the work done by the students during this time is what makes the community so unique.
“This is the reason why I’ve been here for so long and I haven’t left to look for another job. This is it. Our kids come up with these ideas on their own,” she said. “They’re always willing to help each other out no matter what.”
Flores was planning to attend the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac this fall. At the time of his death, he was volunteering at retreats for middle school students at St. Anthony Parish. Ricardo Torres, Catholic Herald Staff