My Speech for Uncle Hank / Ralph Ochoa Jr (Nephew) For my Uncle Hank...
I’d like to start off by saying thank you to everyone who has shown up today to help celebrate the life of such a wonderful man. I know his family, Aunt Andy, Nick, Carolyn, and the rest of us want to express how grateful and overjoyed we are to see so many of you who had the opportunity to have him touch some part of your life. Growing up in a family where talent runs wild, I’ve seen its great rewards. And Uncle Hank seemed to bring out all of it’s splendor in everything he did. Uncle Hank was never like an uncle to me. He was more of my other dad. It’s hard to look back and not see where his presence wasn’t felt in my life.
So recalling the first memories of Uncle Hank, Aunt Andy, Nick, and Monica for me is like trying to find your first conscious memory. So long ago, yet so vivid. My first memory… Was of large black trash bags. Hefty trash bags. Filled… with tons of Star Wars toys. Bags that were taken from my house to theirs practically every other weekend. My dad’s car, or Aunt Andy’s red Buick filled with just enough space for us to sit in. Any other free space occupied with a toy. And for that weekend, Nick and I would take over their front room with our imaginations running rampant. And there was Uncle Hank encouraging us, feeding our imaginations, encouraging us to imagine the impossible. And after a long day of playing, we would huddle around the TV, and watch whatever movie was on SelecTV. And you could see the gleam in his and Nick’s eyes when either horror or sci-fi movies were on. Well… They were excited… I usually watched the movies with my eyes closed.
Looking back, I see that I wasn’t the only nephew and niece to experience this. But the one thing only some of us got to experience were his outings to the Comic Conventions. You could see the gleam in all of our eyes when he would take us, whether it was to the Creation Conventions in L.A., some of the local comic book shops, or to the end all be all of the Conventions… The Comic Con in San Diego. And it was here that I developed my love for comics. He instilled in me the wonderment and excitement of what those books were. But he also taught me about how it was much more. The art. The story telling. And it was because of both Uncle Hank and Aunt Andy that I was able to get my fix at such an early age. And it’s because of them that I pass down that same excitement to my kids, Taira, Onika, and Dakota.
Now my mom and dad, Becky and Ralph Sr, also encouraged me as I was growing up. And when mom couldn’t find a sitter for me and my sister, we went to… The shop. Alvarez Wax Models. A place filled with clay sculptures, wax heads on racks, plastered faces and hands, movie props, and headless figures… A place that, when well lit, was quite amazing… But at night… Well, let’s just say to a small child’s mind took on a life of its own where something was gonna get you no matter what corner you turned. And after all these years, I learned that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Being left alone in there could be traumatizing. And of course, Uncle Hank couldn’t pass up the opportunity to scare us when he had the chance. But being there I learned about what an artist was. I can remember how excited my Uncle Hank was when he would give me tours of the shop. Any new item that came in, or what new piece he was working on, would have this incredible back story to it, and he was compelled to tell it with such enthusiasm. And I would be hanging on every word. He was like a Shaman sitting around a fire telling the secrets of the universe, and I, with my soda in one hand, toy in the other, wide eyed with my mouth hanging open. And all I could say was “That’s so cool, Uncle Hank.”
As I grew older, the excitement of the shop never went away. Although I had become a young man, I still walked in eager to hear of any new projects, and there he was, still eager to tell of the back story it came with. And he did that with everyone who came into his shop. He welcomed people in and took pride in his business. He was a most humble and gracious host to those that dare ventured in. And no matter who it was, he still had that same enthusiasm to share those stories. I can remember walking in to the shop (not knowing it would have been my last time) and just simply looking around and seeing lots of good times in there. I could recall almost all the stories of each pieces left, and it was most welcoming. And of course, that childhood feeling of thinking “Which one of these things is gonna come alive first and eat me…?” And I had to laugh. That shop WAS Uncle Hank. That place was a very important part of my life. It ruined how I look at horror films now. Breaking me out of the story because I would suddenly find myself trying to figure out how the special effects were done. But there laid some of the magic Uncle Hank did.
The talks Nick and I had with him always seemed magical, no matter how mundane they were. And he was always there to give the words of encouragement. Enlightment. And of love. Looking back, that’s all he ever wanted. Not just for Nick and I. Not just for Aunt Andy and Carolyn. It was for all of us. Not just the numerous nephews and nieces he had, but for his whole family. I can honestly say I never saw him get mad. Never. Nick and Andy might know otherwise, but I believe I can speak for all of us cousins, that we never saw that happen. Just pure love. And I think that’s what he truly was. A family man. He was happiest when we were all together enjoying each other’s company. And somewhat sadden when the family would be at odds with each other. But no matter what was going on, he always made sure he put the best foot forward, and tried to bring happiness and joy and peace wherever he went. And he made it known that if we ever needed to talk, he would always be there for us. He always seemed to stay as neutral ground, and would offer level-headed advice when asked for it. And there were times he was there, listening to me, thinking outside the box, offering his advice, and then putting his arm around me, hugging me, and then we’d talk about the newest special effects movies that had just come out.
There’s something that I will need to deal with for the rest of my life. A small part of my soul that has regret. I was offered the opportunity to go see Uncle Hank if I wanted with the family during his last weeks on earth. I wanted to. Badly. But I knew from having seen my other Aunt and Uncle passing the same way, it would affect how I would remember him. I didn’t want that to happen. So knowing I would not have the opportunity to say Goodbye and I love you for the last time, I declined. Deep down there’s will always be that regret, albeit small, but still there. But I know that until my time here is done, I’ll always have those memories of such a vibrant man, greeting me with open arms, that big grin on his face, ready to talk about his newest projects. He would want it that way. And deep down, I know this.
And his time came. And I called in that day to work, and drove from Laguna Hills, back to Carson. And on the way I visited both memorials in San Pedro that bore his name. And there was an emptiness in the air. And as I went to my grandparents house, all I could feel was an empty void. As I was there, I saw all the little cousins playing and having fun, not really understanding what had happened. And I sat on the porch with sadness, knowing my shaman had left us, and there would be no more of those stories.
And then, a week later, I was at my girlfriend Andrea’s house, and her son Jay was up way past his bedtime. He couldn’t sleep, and he couldn’t make up his mind on which story to choose because he had read them all. And at that moment, I felt something. And I asked him to lay down because I was going to tell him a story. “Give me a place, day or night, and how many people...” I told him. And he proceeded to tell me. And I took those elements, and created his own personal bedtime story. And as I told it, I found I was mimicking how Uncle Hank would tell his stories. And with just enough light from the outside peaking through the window, I could see that gleam in Jay’s eyes as he witnessed his creation come to life. And when I was done, it was his turn. And there was excitement in his voice. And he quickly went to sleep after he was done. As did I, with a giant smile on my face.
I know we feel there is a big void in our life right now, but is there really one? We have the ability to live like Uncle Hank did. With happiness, love, excitement, and thirst for the zest of life. He will always be there with us in spirit. It’s up to us to find those same characteristics from within. We all have that ability to fill in that void. I for one surely have found that because now, I can’t help but think of Uncle Hank when I’m telling a story to my kids and nieces and nephews and little cousins. I’m finding myself in storyteller mode, and finding that gleam in their eyes that Uncle Hank found so long ago.
My mom broke down a few days after his passing. “He never accomplished his dreams” she said. Mom. He did. For Uncle Hank, his one biggest dream was accomplished long ago. And that was having a family. His greatest accomplishments weren’t his shop. It wasn’t seeing his name on a movie screen. It wasn’t the memorials in San Pedro. His greatest accomplishments are here. Aunt Andy, Nick, Carolyn. And us. Right now. In front of me. It was, and always will be his family. And now I like to imagine him entering heaven, and there’s Monica, holding her painting, arms open wide, with a gleam in her eye saying “welcome home dad… Now tell me a story about your life…”
My Brother, Henry / Becky Ochoa (Sister) To this day it still seems so unreal that you are no longer with us. I was not with you when you left this world. I wanted to be there to hug you. To hold your hand and tell you not to be afraid. I wanted to usher you off into the hands of our Lord. Life has not been the same since you left us. My heart is broken! There are many times when I cry for you and many times that I have to laugh when I think of things you did or said. They say you are in a better place but at this time it offers me little comfort. It still hurts that you are not here. I expected you to be around forever. I always thought I could email you or call you whenever I wanted. You always tried to keep me in the loop. Telling me of your dreams and who was doing this or that. I always made sure to tell you how thankful I was for all you did for me. I was able to tell you I loved you,yet you always tried to turn it around by tell me how thankful you were for me helping you. Oh my brother, It was an honor to work with you! You taught me many things that I will never forget! When we would go up to visit you, the best time was with you in your studio ,listening to what your plans were, seeing what you were working on, helping you with your farm,cutting trees. All of us on our knees laying down bark to protect your acre of threes . Laughing at the jokes...the Mexicans are here. We laughed so hard!The hardest time was leaving you. I always cried when it was time to leave. I hated to leave you. I felt like I was leaving my heart in Oregon. I would cry like I was never going to see you again. I think I would stop when we were half way home! I remember the last time you came to California and I seen a change in you and I became very worried. Then you wrote me and told me you had cancer. I was in shock! I cried out to God, no not my brother! I cried out to God, asking him how could he allow this to happen to you. You told me I had to be strong because I was going to be the go between you and the family. You said I was a strong woman. I wanted to tell you no, I am not strong and you cannot be sick! I wanted to get on the next plane to Oregon. I wanted to be there to help you fight and give you words of wisdom. I felt useless. All I could was pray for you. God knew how much I wanted to be there for you. The day of your surgery,when things were not going as planned, my heart stopped, I lost faith and yelled at God. I didnt understand why, why you! I even pleaded with God to take me and not you. You didnt know that much about God and you needed more time to learn and to tell others about the Lord. When I no longer received emails, no longer heard your voice I new you were ready for a new journey. One that I was not ready for you to go on. I started to doubt God, where was his powers and I wanted to know how come my Brother did not get a second chance? I was angry! The last time I seen you, you looked like a handsome man. I did not see the sick man but one that was ready to move into the next realm. I will never forget when you walked into your living room. Stood in the doorway and said Becky, walked over to where me and Andie were sitting. I asked if you wanted to sit and you just shaked your head no and walked back into your room. I seen you as this tall young man. The man I knew and loved but the man who was going away. Up until the last I thought God was going to do this miracle. I asked God where was your miracle. I had no answers and never received answers. To this day I am waiting for an answer! You went away, and I was not there. So I will say it now! Hank, I will see you again. When it is my time, I expect to see you standing there, calling my name. I will run to you and hug you once again. I miss you, I will always love you. You were the best brother anyone could ever have! I have the best memories of all our times together. Be in peace, rest, until we meet again. I love you Hank!
I miss Henry and our reminiscences of the HWM / Mindi Reid (friend)Read >>
I miss Henry and our reminiscences of the HWM / Mindi Reid (friend)
I feel so privileged to have counted Henry as my friend...and mourn his absence more than ever. I hope he will look down and be proud of me when I finally get a piece about the Hawaiian Wax Museum finished and published in the Hawaiian Journal of History. He provided me with so much info from Stubergh documentation and his own knowwledge...I will always be grateful for his generosity and enthusiasm in re: this lot treasure of Waikiki. Close
I had the pleasure of meeting Henry at his Long Beach Studio in 2000. I brought my son Jack with me, he was seven . We had a great time looking at all his sculptures and the life mask collection. What was to be a one hour visit turned in to a three hour visit.
He was a great host and a good man with a big heart.
The Brodsky men remember that afternoon with great fondness.
My thoughts on my friend and teacher Henry Alvarez / Darren Roberts (Friend)Read >>
My thoughts on my friend and teacher Henry Alvarez / Darren Roberts (Friend)
A person is lucky if they meet someone like Henry even once in their lifetime. Henry was my mentor, my friend and like a second Dad to me.
The first time I was invited to Alvarez Wax Models to meet with Henry, I felt like a kid at Christmas. Sculptures, monsters, wax figures and heads were everywhere. Famous life masks lined the shelves and walls. The smell of clay and wax. I was in artist heaven. It was a magical place. After we talked for a bit in his office, Henry then proceeded to give me one of his world famous tours of the shop. He had an interesting story for every artifact and shared many of those stories with me that day. I was already a huge fan of Henry's work so needless to say I was in awe. After I passed his notorious ear sculpture test, Henry invited me back. But this time to start my Jedi training.
I have countless fond memories of my time working at Alvarez Wax Models. It was an exciting and inspiring time. Henry and his wife Andrea were always a joy to be around. Henry had the best laugh on the planet. It put a smile on everyones face. Henry was not just a brilliant artist, he was also a fan. He never held back his extreme excitement for a piece of art, sculpture or monster he liked. You would know it too, because he would exclaim his favorite expression... "WOW!" Henry was a kid at heart.
The knowledge, wisdom and inspiration that Henry has passed on to me and countless others will live on through art. Henry loved art. He had a passion for it. I feel privileged to have known Henry and call him my friend. He will continue to be an inspiration to me as an artist and a human being. I'm going to miss him. Close
An inspiration / Bill Hunt
Mr. Alvarez's work is simply stunning and inspirational, and has, without a doubt, influenced and shaped a generation of sculptors, designers and effects artists. He progressed the art form and will be dearly missed. Close