Everything happens for a reason, even an unexpected death.
Galo Ulloa — a 65-year-old motorcyclist who died when he collided with a big rig at Buena Vista Street and Burbank Boulevard Nov. 30 while passing through the intersection on his way to work — will go on to help other in memoriam through an orphanage, his family said.
Ulloa's family, who held a memorial service Thursday for the 25-year resident, say they moved past the grief stage and now want to celebrate his life with an orphanage in his memory.
Ulloa, orphaned at the age of 8 in a small town in Ecuador, learned to survive and work hard at an early age.
He traveled to the city of Guayaquil with his young cousin and by the age of 10, he had his own shoe-shining business. Ulloa and his cousin were too young to rent an apartment and slept in whatever boats were at the river ferry dock. They carried passenger luggage for change.
When they didn't have the money to buy food, they would dive into the water and eat clams they pulled off the reef.
"My father wanted to live the American dream and have a family," said his 36-year-old son Dave Ulloa. "He wanted to buy his own house and be able to pay it off."
In his early 20s, Ulloa made his way to New York City, where he started working two to three jobs at a time as a busboy and dishwasher.
While he worked his way up to being a manager at Squire's Diner in New York City, he married his wife Maria, and had three children, Walter, now 37, Amy, 35, and Dave.
The family moved to Burbank in 1986 and Ulloa started the process over again, working two jobs, including a position at the historic Canter's Deli in Los Angeles.
"He never made more than $50,000 a year," his son recalls with pride. "But just before his death he finished paying off his house, exactly like he wanted."
Ulloa and his wife were planning on retiring in Cuenca, Ecuador, and dividing their remaining years between the United States and a new home in South America.
The day Ulloa died, Nathally Florio, a family friend of Dave's who lives in Cedar Grove, N.J., returned from a trip to Cuenca. During her time in Ulloa's home country, she had visited La Esperanza, an orphanage within the city limits.
The home, which houses 27 children and provides counseling, food, shelter and an education for the children, was at capacity and could not accept other orphans.
Another Ulloa family friend, Gaby Delgadillo, suggested that in lieu of flowers, they raise money to build a second facility for orphaned children in a city Ulloa loved.
"He didn't like flowers very much, anyways, and thought they were a waste of money and didn't last long," Dave said. "Gaby suggested starting the orphanage in dad's name and leave a legacy."
The family has already raised more than $15,000 for the cause.
In order to fund a home for 27 children, it will cost $138,000 a year, but both Dave and Florio are confident they will be able to provide for the facility through individual donations and business connections.
According to Florio, she and Dave had discussed starting a similar organization about a year-and-a-half ago. When she heard the news about his father, she suggested beginning it in his honor.
"It was like an 'a-ha!' moment for both sides," Florio, who remembered Ulloa as proud, humble and impactful. "As sad as his death was, it wasn't a coincidence in some way."
Dave, other family members and friends plan to travel to Cuenca next summer to visit the orphanage.
The orphanage could not be immediately reached, but in an e-mail, representatives told the family: "God has sent an angel up to help more angels here."
At the intimate gathering of family and friends at Valley Baptist Church on Thursday, survivors celebrated Ulloa's life after receiving his ashes and urn.
Ulloa worked at least two jobs almost his entire life, but had finally quit his second one a few years ago.
With his spare time, he wanted to try something new and bought a motorcycle. It was not just to combat the rising cost of gasoline.
"Riding his motorcycle was his newest hobby," Dave said. "It gave him a sense of freedom he didn't have before."
Galo German Ulloa, who was born on Dec. 26, 1944, is survived by his wife of 40 years, Maria Consuelo Ulloa; three children, Walter, Dave, and Amy, 35; and two other children he had before leaving Ecuador, Mariana and Albert.
To donate to the orphanage in Galo Ulloa's name, make checks out to Family Health Foundation and mail to "Livin' Full Time, Inc." at 3308 Preston Rd. #350-222 in Plano, TX, 75093.
FOR THE RECORD: This version corrects information in the photo caption.