This is such a sad, heart wrenching story. We here at Brokencountry.com are happy to see that “Coach V” was so loved and respected in the community of Moreno Valley.
Several hundred students, along with teachers, coaches and others, gathered in the quad at Moreno Valley High School on Monday night to pay homage to a man they knew as Coach V and considered more than coach — he was also teacher, mentor, friend, big brother and life anchor.
Ryan Villalpando, 32, taught physical education the past five years at Moreno Valley High. He also was an offensive line coach for the football team.
Villalpando, his wife, Veronica, 29, and their two children, Matteo, 4, and Bella Rose, 7 months, died Saturday when the car they were in became trapped between two big rigs and burst into flames.
As the Villalpando family mourned the loss of their children, grandchildren and brother, the Moreno Valley High community came together on a day school hadn’t even been in session to comfort each other.
“God only takes the best,” read a sign outside the school that was surrounded by vigil candles, a football, a rosary and several bouquets of flowers and balloons.
In the quad, the students, some holding candles, spoke from the midst of the crowd outside the gym.
“He wouldn’t let anyone fall behind,” said a girl who spoke but did not give her name. “He had a welcoming heart. He was loving,” said a burly, tearful football player. “Be the best you can be — that’s what his legacy should be,” another football player said.
John Majors, 19, who played third-string defensive end for the Moreno Valley Vikings, agreed that whether you were a star or a third-stringer, Villalpando knew you and cared about you.
“He was there for us,” Majors said in an interview. “He helped me to study and pass all my classes,” said Majors, who is now at Riverside City College.
James Petrucci, 15, a freshman at Moreno Valley High, met the coach during summer football practice. He considers the man one of a kind, irreplaceable.
“I couldn’t talk to my parents about the things I could talk to him about,” James said as he fought off tears.
The six-vehicle pileup that killed the Villalpando family happened shortly after noon on southbound Interstate 15, south of the Jurupa Street exit in Ontario, said CHP Officer Monica Posada. The area is in a construction zone.
The CHP would provide no information Monday on what caused the collision.
Ryan and Veronica Villalpando lived in Redlands to be close to his parents, Edward and Lisa Villalpando, and his sister, Erikka, 27.
“Never more than a day went by when we didn’t talk to each other,” Erikka Villalpando said.
She said her brother and his family had been shopping in Ontario and were on their way to meet her and their parents at Roundtable Pizza in Moreno Valley.
Erikka described her big brother as “the most honest, reliable person you could meet. He was a brother to all his friends.”
The young couple met while working in the recreation department at the Redlands Community Center.
“She supported him in everything she did,” Erikka said. “She was loving, caring, a wonderful wife and mother, smart and creative. She was like a sister to me and a daughter to my parents.”
With his wife’s encouragement, Ryan Villalpando went on to get his master’s degree in business administration from Azusa Pacific University, where he was working on his doctorate.
“They complemented each other, but were totally different,” Erikka said.
A grieving Edward Villalpando described his son Monday as his best friend.
“I’m very proud of my son’s education and his beautiful kids,” Edward said. “It’s a shame I’m not going to see them grow up.”