ECHS Grad Dies in Bicycle Accident

A member of the 1988 class of El Cerrito High, Willis Veluz-Abraham, died Saturday when he crashed into a ravine while riding his bicycle not far from his Winnetka home in Los Angeles County, authorities and friends said.

A 1988 graduate of El Cerrito High, Willis Veluz-Abraham, died Saturday after he crashed his bicycle off the side of the road and into a ravine in the Santa Monica Mountains not far from where he lived with his wife and two young children in Los Angeles County, according to authorities and friends.

He crashed around 9 a.m. while riding on Stunt Road, said Jerry McKibben, an investigator with the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. The area is next to the city of Calabasas.

His immediate family in Winnetka (Los Angeles County) and relatives in Richmond were in shock over the sudden tragedy, said photographer Joseph Pascua, who took several photos of the family in December 2010. The photo session at Kennedy Grove Regional Park in El Sobrante was held to commemorate the 80th birthday of Veluz-Abraham's father, Pascua said.

Veluz-Abraham, 42, and his wife Melissa recently had their second child, Pascua said.

He worked at 21st Century Insurance and graduated in English from UCLA in 1993, according to his Facebook page. Recent posts indicate he was an avid cyclist, taking extended rides recorded on MapMyRIDE.

"Willis was a co-worker and a friend of mine," a commenter named "Daniel" said on the BikingInLA blog Sunday night. "Since the first time I met him, he was always friendly and he always had a smile on his face. His wife and him recently had their second child. I had a conversation with him a few days ago and he was mentioning how important it was for him to have quality time with his wife and children.

"Willis was also very active in his Church. He was a graduate of UCLA and he was originally from Northern California. Willis love to eat and he enjoyed trying new foods. Willis and his wife enjoy salsa dancing.

"Everyone at work is crashed that he died this way. I take some comfort that he died while doing something he loved to do and that he live his life to the fullest."

Pascua too recalled Veluz-Abraham's disposition. "He was a great guy," Pascua said. "He always had a smile on his face."

Another BikingInLA comment, from "Fellow Bruin," said, "I’ve known Willis since my college days. Such a bright light he is/ was to anyone who knew him. Such a shock and a terrible loss for our entire community. He and his wife just welcomed their 2nd son into the world in February. That’s the worst part– he’ll never remember just what a special dad he had. Willis was no dare-devil. I don’t know how this could happen- but ride carefully, folks!"

One commenter, "justin murray," said newly installed rumble strips on the road could have played a role: "Happened in a turn near milemarker 3. Could be those new rumble strips in the center. I would hate to go wide in a turn at speed and hit them while trying to gather everything up."

The coroner's office said the accident occurred at mile 3.14 on Stunt Road.

LaTanya McNeil-Jones July 16, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Willis was a wonderful friend, I feel so sad, yet so blessed to have known him since 6th grade. He will be missed by everyone who knew him. LaTanya McNeil-Jones ECHS Class of 1988
Kriz Bell July 17, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Willis always made you laugh and feel comfortable. He is the 2nd devastating loss to the ECHS class of '88 (Raju Singh passed in Dec. 2011) gone too soon.
Brian Hamilton July 17, 2012 at 07:21 AM
I'm so sorry to read about this tragic accident. Wishing comfort and peace to Mr. Veluz-Abraham's family and friends.
Scott Foster July 17, 2012 at 08:18 PM
He was a benevolent king as class president - if the rest of the world could rule the way Willis ruled the Class of '88...he was, as one friend put it, "all-inclusive." There were no nerds in his eyes, no jocks, just people - he made everyone feel accepted, and that's why, even though someof us haven't seen him for a while, we greatly feel his absence now.
Lauri La Pointe July 24, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Everybody loved Willis. What a shock. My heart goes out to the Veluz-Abraham family. Thank you Willis for the positive and loving way you always treated everyone. Your confidence, intelligence, humor, silliness, and inclusiveness was so appreciated. And thanks for all the rides home in the Dart. You are so missed. Love, Lauri Class of '88


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