To many of the English as a New Language students at Mattituck High School, Melvin Dominguez Torres was a good friend. A native of El Salvador, Melvin followed two of his older brothers to the United States four years ago and joined several cousins who lived in the area.
Shortly after the news spread that Melvin, 21, had died following a single-car accident in Cutchogue Jan. 6, Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate received a call from the school district asking if she would come meet with students.
“The kids had gotten together and they were really devastated,” she said.
On Jan. 10, she joined a large group of students in the high school auditorium where they talked about how to celebrate someone’s life. Melvin’s parents, Julia, 52, and Francisco, 55, were both in El Salvador, so they came up with the idea for students to write letters of condolence.
Melvin’s body was flown back to El Salvador Friday and inside his coffin were all the letters from current students and teachers who knew him.
“When the parents receive his body, they’re also going to be receiving that connection back here from people who are sending them letters of condolence and support,” she said. “I thought that was pretty good.”
Sister Margaret assisted Melvin’s brother José Henry Dominguez with organizing a funeral service at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck last Monday. She presided over the service, which saw a big turnout of friends and family who mourned Melvin. Lucia Restaurant in Mattituck invited the mourners to enjoy coffee and snacks after the service.
“It was a special moment,” José said in Spanish, as translated through an interpreter. “It was great to see all Melvin’s friends and family coming together. At the same time it was sad, because he was someone who had so much to offer.”
Melvin lived with José and their older brother Amilcar Dominguez Torres, who was in El Salvador at the time of the accident. The brothers come from a big family of nine siblings raised in Ilobasco, a town 30 miles northeast of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. The siblings range from 32 to 9.
Melvin came to the U.S. with hopes of earning enough money to eventually build a home of his own back in El Salvador, his brother said. He dreamed of taking his parents places they had never been.
He worked six days a week at Michelangelo Pizzeria in Mattituck and enjoyed his job, his brother said. The brothers looked out for one another.
“At the moment I feel sad, but more than anything alone,” said José, who added that he plans to donate Melvin’s belongings.
José remembered his brother as a talented soccer player and friendly person who would greet anyone with a smile and hello. They were men of faith who attended church in Greenport and Riverhead.
Sister Margaret said she knew Melvin from the times she ate pizza at Michelangelo.
“I’d see him around work all the time, so we knew each other that way,” she said.
On the night of the crash, Melvin had recently completed his shift at work and stopped at his cousin’s house in Mattituck for about 30 minutes. He was tired, but looking forward to getting up early the next morning. His cousin was going to accompany him to get a passport so he could begin the process of obtaining a valid driver’s license under the recent Green Light legislation.
That night, when Melvin hadn’t arrived home promptly, José called and began to message him. His last message was at 11:42 p.m. He wrote asking Melvin to “please pick up. I’m worried for you.”
Around midnight, he received a call from a friend saying Melvin had been in an accident. He called his family in El Salvador to let them know what had happened.
When he arrived at the scene of the accident, a police officer gave him Melvin’s wallet.
His worst fears were confirmed.
Melvin would have turned 22 on Jan. 24. His brother, who turned 27 Friday, said Melvin was looking forward to celebrating.
“He had a life ahead of him and then suddenly it’s gone,” José said.
Translations by Helen Cruz