Some nights, 4-year-old Alejandro Solis would sit with his coloring book, his mother said, carefully drawing in it while watching his father study for his business classes, miming Alejandro “Alex” Solis’ movements.
Now, young Alejandro, known as “Baby Alex” to family and friends, colors alone, but he doesn’t fully understand why.
“I told him that Daddy passed away, and I didn’t have to say anything after that because my grandmother passed away recently and we had discussed what that meant,” said Solis’ fiance, Priscella Ybarra, 22. “Last night, though, he asked me when Daddy was coming home, and I had to remind him that he wasn’t. That was difficult.”
Alex Solis, 23, died Sunday evening following a car-related accident Saturday night because of a blunt impact to his head, according to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Last week, Solis was named Homecoming Lord, the equivalent of Homecoming King for USF Polytechnic (USFP), where he was one semester away from graduating with a degree in finance and management and a minor in psychology. Though Solis was involved in a variety of organizations, serving as a member of the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, a senator in the USFP Student Government Association (SGA) and an intern at Allen & Company in Lakeland, friends said he sought most of these positions as a way to set a good example for his two sons, Baby Alex and 11-month-old Seann.
“He would do anything for them,” Ybarra said. “Sometimes the kids would want to go outside and play when it was getting late, and most people would say, ‘Don’t bother, you could only go out for five minutes.’ He’d go out anyway and say, ‘Well, at least I can say I spent those five minutes with them.'”
Solis liked to keep his family involved in all facets of his life, friends said, which is why he brought his older son to help clean up Lake Hollingsworth during a community service event with his fraternity in September.
“As soon as we got there he threw his son on his shoulders and started picking up trash,” said Matthew Mays, SGA director of Lakeland activities. “The whole time I kept hearing him talk to his son, explaining why it’s important to keep the environment clean and talking to him about USF and going to college.”
His sense of family also carried over into his experience as Homecoming Lord. When walking onto the field to be formally recognized for the achievement at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Solis wasn’t talking about his title, the thousands of people watching him or whether the Bulls would defeat the Orange.
Instead, his Homecoming court counterpart said he pointed upward, scanning the stadium’s upper deck to look for Ybarra and his sons.
“He got so excited when he saw his fiance holding up their little boy,” said Natalie Lahr, who was crowned Homecoming Lady. “He just kept saying, ‘There’s my boys, there’s my boys!’ He was so proud.”
Solis’ experience as Lord wasn’t his first time on a homecoming court. During his senior year of high school, Ybarra and Solis were named Hardee Senior High School’s King and Queen.
“When they danced together, I got chills,” said Naomi Guzman, 22, who knew Solis since elementary school. “Even though they were in high school, you could tell they were in love. I can’t imagine what Priscella is going through.”
Ybarra and Solis began dating in junior high school, and Solis had said he would ask to marry her when he graduated in December. However, on Aug. 22, the couple’s nine-year anniversary, Solis pulled a silver ring with a pink diamond out of his pocket, bending to one knee.
“I didn’t think he was serious, since he said he’d propose to me after he got his degree,” she said. “When he told me he wasn’t joking, I just started crying and said, ‘Of course.'”
After dating for nearly a decade, Ybarra said the most difficult part of her fiance’s death is not having him by her side anymore.
“We went everywhere together, and now, when I’m going to the store, I’m going alone with my boys,” she said. “I won’t let my kids see me pouring tears, though. I want them to know that their mom is strong, and that she’ll take care of them.”
Since Solis was going to be the first in his family to graduate from college, Ybarra said she has been talking to his former professors to see if she can receive his degree.
“I want to hang his degree on the wall so our sons can see that education is a big thing,” she said. “They could see it and know that their daddy did this.”
• Wake: Robarts Family Funeral Home in Wauchula, Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
• Funeral: Robarts, Saturday 8:30 a.m. (graveside service to follow)
• Longtime friend and coworker Jennifer Hand is trying to set up a scholarship fund for Solis’ sons. Call 863-781-4550 to donate or find out how to help.