Activist community

Buddy Rabaya, 58, activist owner of mobile home Santee, community icon

Seniors living in mobile home parks in Santee have lost their most passionate supporter, and the City of Santee is going through a collective grief with the passing of one of its most involved citizens, Buddy Rabaya.

Rabaya, a Santee resident since 2007 who was named “2018 Citizen of the Year” by the Santee Chamber of Commerce last year, died April 28 of complications from a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 58 years old.

He leaves behind his husband, John Hossick, 49, of Santee, and a son, Buddy Shane Rabaya, 39, of Las Vegas, from a previous marriage, as well as his sister, Shelly Tampon of Vista.

Hossick said Rabaya had a stroke on March 25 and was put on a ventilator soon after. He said Rabaya’s kidneys had been donated to two people.

Born May 14, 1961, Buddy Al Rabaya was a Brawley native who moved to Oceanside with his family as a toddler, graduating from El Camino High School in 1979.

Tampon said his older brother was a star tennis player and part of the El Camino speaking team, and later studied various subjects at Palomar College when he was in his 30s. Rabaya eventually became executive vice president of the community college associate student government in the late 1990s.

This experience at Palomar helped him become the 2015 leader of the Santee Mobilehome Owners Action Committee, a group that lobbies for residents’ rights, including rent control.

He and Hossick have helped provide a variety of programs for youth, families and seniors through SMOAC.

At Rabaya’s request, the group organized backpack giveaways for school children in East County, brought holiday cheer and camaraderie with a “SMOAC Elves Adopt-a-Senior” program, organized Mother’s Day lunches, donated Easter baskets to families in need, and worked with several of the grocery stores and other volunteer groups to bring a food pantry to Meadowbrook, one of the mobile home communities from the city.

Rabaya was also the regional director of the Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League, a statewide group that sponsors legislation related to mobile home parks.

Judy Baxter, an elderly person living in Meadowbrook, said: ‘Buddy was one of those people that the minute you met him you loved him. He had the joy of life and the love of people and his greatest desire was to help the elderly.

Baxter said Rabaya was so easily endeared just with her smile and “what can I do for you” attitude.

Solving the issues, Rabaya has become “a sounding board for everything from ‘she looked at me badly’ to ‘I can’t afford my car,'” Baxter said.

Rabaya was a familiar face on social media, wishing friends and family a good day with a positive affirmation in the early hours of every morning on Facebook, and offering his followers virtual “big bear hugs” every day. evenings.

Santee Chamber of Commerce CEO Kristen Dare said Rabaya’s “contagious love power” and unique ability to deliver programs that benefited almost everyone in the community should be recognized. , and that she hoped people would continue on her path – for “Be Like a Boyfriend.

“He wanted people to give where they can, when they can, to make us all stronger because obviously we’re all better together,” Dare said.

A regular at city council meetings, Rabaya didn’t often speak in public, but when he did, the 6-foot-1 “gentle giant,” Dare called him, made sure elected officials knew they were appreciated. At the same time, Rabaya also held them accountable on behalf of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“If you live in Santee, your life has been impacted directly or indirectly by Buddy,” Councilwoman Laura Koval said. “Buddy’s passion, some would say obsession, was helping the elderly. Whether it was feeding the food insecure, finding resources for medical or financial issues, or just listening and giving a hug, Buddy was there. Buddy and John were the dynamic duo, our community’s “Git-R-Done” dream team. I will miss his laugh and his smile.

Santee Councilman Rob McNelis celebrated Rabaya’s marriage to Hossick in 2015. The couple had been together since 1999 and had lived at a Town & Country Mobile Lodge mobile home park in Santee since 2007.

“Buddy was one of the few people who did what he said he would do,” McNelis said. “Many people talk to me with grandiose ideas; very few people follow. Buddy always followed, with a servant’s heart. He is one of those people who have the heart of an elephant, an eternally generous person that you don’t often meet.

“It’s often when you lose someone like that that you realize how much you had in them and how much you’re going to miss them. It’s easy to see what a loss that is to the community as a whole.

Rabaya’s friend since 2014, Lynda Marrokal, whose family is one of the town’s pioneers, said her passing “felt like a nightmare”.

“We are all in the twilight zone,” Marrokal said. “I can’t believe we lost Buddy. I’m so heartbroken. He always amazed me at the number of lives he touched and wanted nothing in return. He did everything with his heart because he really cared about other human beings.

Rabaya’s cremated remains will be interred at the Eternal Hills Mortuary in Oceanside, where his parents, Alfonso Rabaya and Dolores Stockert Rabaya, are buried.

Tampon said a celebration of Rabaya’s life will be held at a later date and said that in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to SMOAC to help seniors in need.