Man killed in crash dreamed of becoming a citizen

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
BISCOE — Julian Gomez Mazaba had big plans for 2012.
“Julian wanted more than anything to become an American citizen and this coming year, he would have seen that dream come true,” his widow, Stephanie Gomez, said.
But a head-on collision mere days before Christmas, fatally injured the 33-year-old Biscoe man.
Mazaba was one of four North Carolina men killed in the accident in North Dakota on Dec. 20. Derek M. Sorrell, 27, of Spencer; William M. Webb, 25, of China Grove; and Scotty R. Eagle, 24, of Salisbury also died.
The men were traveling eastbound in a Lincoln Navigator on U.S. 52, when they struck a Mack truck traveling westbound. The driver of the Navigator was attempting to pass another vehicle, according to a report issued by the North Dakota Highway Patrol.
Mazaba immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 and immediately began working to help support his family in Mexico.
“His father abandoned the family and even though he was the youngest of five children, he worked double and triple shifts for almost two years,” Gomez said. “He was just a really hardworking man.”
Gomez said she met Mazaba shortly after he moved here. At the time, one of her friends was dating his cousin.
“She wanted me to interpret because I know Spanish,” she said. “We became very good friends before we started dating.”
After the two married nearly 15 years ago, Mazaba decided he wanted to become an American citizen.
“He always told me he met the love of his life here and wanted to be part of this country,” Gomez said. “He also loved the opportunities the United States had to offer.”
Gomez said her husband also wanted to earn citizenship because their three children — Caleb, 16; Julio, 13; and Daisy, 11 — are Americans.
She described him as a “loving father” and a “gentle man.”
Mazaba had just started working for KRC Building Solutions of Cleveland a couple of months ago. The job came after a long search, which Gomez said included discrimination.
“The last few years have been really hard on him because, even though he has papers to work here, being Hispanic, a lot of people didn’t believe they were real,” she said. “He was just thrilled to get this job.”
The job meant he would spend a lot of time on the road, a sacrifice that he didn’t enjoy, but knew he had to make.
“He knew this job was going to bring him new opportunities,” Gomez said.
Each time Mazaba got paid, he kept out about $20 for himself and sent the rest back home to his family.
“I would ask him ‘honey, don’t you need some more money,’ and he would say ‘I’m not working here to have fun or get stuff for myself. You keep all the money and pay the bills and buy the kids Christmas presents,’ ” Gomez said. “He hardly ever had any money in his wallet, but that was by choice; he gave us everything.”
Gomez said when her husband wasn’t working, he liked to have fun.
“He loved music and dancing,” she said. “He always had a smile for everyone.”
Mazaba’s death has left a hole in the family, Gomez said.
“I want people to know that he was more than just a man who died in a car accident,” she said. “He was a great man. This is truly a loss for our family.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.