Life of a Brave: Remembering The Life And Service Of Mr. Ismael “Ish” Fernandez

by Joshua Hernandez, Editor-In-Chief

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

On Friday, February 12, 2021, the St John Bosco High School community lost a giant, a man who truly embodied everything it meant not just to be a Bosco Brave, but a Salesian man. 

The life and service of Mr. Ismael “Ish” Fernandez is a story that may be righteously told to future generations of Brave students and staff. 

While Ish served the Bosco Community with boundless love and protected students and staff alike with unlimited devotion, he will be remembered as far more than just his official capacity as the Head Security Guard. 

Indubitably, there are a multitude of ways that the Bosco Community will remember Ish – his famous Golf Cart being one of them. The signature image for Ish was riding around campus in the cart to ensure the safety of the premises, thus certifying the protection of the boys he never failed to protect. 

“Ish was literally the gatekeeper of Bosco. All the students and staff knew him by name and by voice. Amazingly, he knew so many of their names as well. Just as part of the role of the Good Shepherd (in the bible) is to keep the sheep safe, it was Ish’s vocation to keep the students and staff of Bosco safe from danger. Ish was easily the most visible person on campus and surely one of the most respected,” said Religion Instructor and Football Coach Mr. Joe Griffin. 

Yet, while such a memory may be held by so many Bosco students, alumni, faculty and staff, it is not all he’ll be remembered for.

Ish will be remembered for his professionalism, integrity and strong, unmatched character. Ish will be remembered for getting to know students on a personal level and always being willing to engage in conversations at various times throughout the school day. Ish will be remembered not just for his immense love for the Raiders, which he always made sure to bring up as a point of conversation, but also for his love of all things Braves. 

Ish always kept up with Braves sports, knowing updates on the team, how they were performing, who they’d be playing and what expectations there were year in and year out. Far more than that, he always made sure to keep up with student athletes and general students throughout their respective seasons and the school year, and even long beyond after they graduated from Bosco. It can be said without hyperbole that he was every Brave athlete and student’s number one fan. 

While Ish served the Bosco Community for two decades, the impact he made within that time makes it feel like he has been a part of the community much longer. All the same, though, it also feels like he had so much more to give, and was taken away from us way too soon.

Even the most marginal intricacies that made Ish who he was makes his loss all that more immeasurable, personal and tragic. 

Amazingly, while Ish was loved, respected and looked up to by many students, his stern look and tough aura made him perfect in his capacity within the community: our protector. 

“Don Bosco himself was known to be a man strong and gentle. The same can be said of Ish. Few were tougher than Ish; no stranger to weights and workouts was he. His steely gaze could intimidate most if required. He was also gentle in many ways, always ready to help. One quite appreciated mode of help was transporting many a staff member to the far reaches of our campus in his ubiquitous cart,” said Mr. Griffin.

Ish’s famous cart at a Candlelight Vigil in his honor at St John Bosco on Saturday, February 13, 2021. Image captured by Bosco Junior Nicholas Neoman.

There is no denying that had a situation ever risen where potential danger was posed to the Bosco community that Ish had the toughness, resilient aura and selfless traits necessary to protect and defend everyone to the best of his ability. Yet, what also made Ish all the more lovable and respectable was the fact that he never projected his powerful, tough aura to students and teachers during conversations or in his general service. 

Ish was always warm, gentle, kind and gracious. He was a true pleasure to be around, which is rare nowadays. Undoubtedly, he was a workhorse who was both kind and approachable. It’s no secret that he was strong because he would work out a lot, but the Bosco community always saw him as a kind hearted, calm man who just happened to be strong, tough and protective. 

The impact left behind by Ish was felt just as much by longtime colleagues as it was by students. Longtime Brave science teacher Mr. Robert Linares, whose son graduated from Bosco in 2016 and was shaken by the news of Ish’s sudden passing, had a deep appreciation for his longtime colleague who morphed into his friend throughout their two decades of working together. 

“When I would leave for the day, every time I’d go to my car, I’d intentionally look to see where Ish was. I’d look for his cart and then for him, to say goodbye, wave goodbye or hopefully have time to talk to him. He was just very easy going, very charismatic. He just had a very easy demeanor about him, a certain peace came from him that allowed you to feel calm when around him,” said Mr. Linares. 

Personally, throughout their two decades of working together within the Bosco Community, Mr. Linares noted how much of an impact Ish made over time. Whenever there were moments of uncertainty or danger, Ish had the exact sense of calm that was necessary. In time when others would be anxious or shaken, Ish would be in his element. He was always able to absorb moments of anxiety and frustration and was always reasonable when others may have become flustered. 

Thus, the reason we all feel terribly for his loss is because we’ll sorely miss his loss, and it will be felt. 

“Ish had longevity, he became a part of our fabric, and we became a part of his. He had a calming influence, an unshakeable demeanor. Being a security guard was just a title. He was a friend, a colleague, a help, a part of the family. Security guards are tasked with looking out for people; but Ish took care of people, got to know people; he followed through with people. Even after correcting kids, he was still respected, because people knew where they stood with Ish. They knew he truly cared and wanted them to learn,” said Mr. Linares. 

Bosco students and parents pay their respects to Ish. Image captured by Bosco Junior Nicholas Neoman.

A graduate from Bell Gardens High School, where he played football, Ish truly did understand Bosco students, alumni, and teachers alike. Everything that it meant to be a Bosco Brave – whether as a student or teacher – and the tremendous responsibilities it bears, Ish understood. 

The journey at Bosco began for Ish during the 1999-2000 school year, nearly 21 years ago. This means that every current Bosco student wasn’t even born when Ish began his Salesian service. 

Mr. Mario Cordero, a Bosco Alumnus from the class of 1997, graduated before Ish was hired as the Head Security Guard. Before Ish was hired, there was no predecessor as Head of Security; deans, faculty members, or coaches would rotate turns ensuring campus safety. Quite literally, Ish was the first of his kind at Bosco, and his sudden loss leaves behind a gaping hole that will be tough to fill. 

Upon Mr. Cordero’s return to Bosco after his university graduation in the Spring of 2002, where he was a Freshman baseball coach, and later becoming a faculty member as a teacher in the Fall of 2003, he noticed the profound impact Ish began to have on the school community. 

“Ish was a wonderful Salesian. He was officially the Head of Security, but more than that he was a friend to the youth. It’s glaringly obvious and apparent that was his attribute. I never detected one hint of anything but love, care and concern for the Bosco community,” said Mr. Cordero. 

Beyond his service to the Bosco community as a protector, Ish’s mere presence meant so much to so many. It was, of course, nice to know that there was always security and safety, which Ish provided.

Really, though, Ish was always just so present. He was around. If Ish were to be remembered by something, it was that he was present. That’s his legacy – through the good, the bad, the highs, the lows, Ish never failed to be there, even throughout the past year riddled by COVID-19. 

“Ish built little tiny characters, about two inches tall. He would get them unpainted, unfinished, and he’d paint them into action figures. In moments of free time I’d see them, and I knew he had attention to detail and patience. There’s a line from the Sopranos that says, ‘if we’re lucky we’ll remember the little things.’ And, I think Ish recognized the little things in his life. He was able to celebrate the little things, from his characters all the way to the Raiders, Dodgers and, of course, Bosco,” said Mr. Cordero. 

Certainly, the Bosco community will also remember Ish for the little things. His presence, his wisdom, his toughness and most importantly his determination to serve us well and be a true Salesian. Ish always found the beauty in the simple little things throughout his life, and yet what he never knew was that the Bosco community cherished the little things that he did. It is cemented now as part of his legacy. 

We can all continue his legacy of finding joy on campus, celebrating the victories and defeats of life and finding the positives within the little things in our daily lives. While Ish’s final ride may not be in his signature golf cart, it is perhaps his greatest ride – the journey he is making to be with the Lord in Heaven after a life full of service, selflessness and responsibility.

In a metaphorical sense, the memory of Ish is now being safeguarded by the community he righteously served and protected with joy and unmatched energy. Perhaps it can be said that God’s larger calling is for Ish to continue to watch over the Bosco community and his loved ones spiritually from Heaven. 

Although we may miss his presence with us now and forevermore, our beloved Ish is now being protected by the Lord and in the hands of boundless love, eternal happiness and limitless freedom. Our protector is now being protected in the grandest sense possible, both in the spiritual confines of Heaven and within the memories of all the people whose lives he’s touched through his service. 

Mr. Ismael “Ish” Fernandez is survived by his fiance, his daughters and grandchildren. Rest in peace, Ish. The Bosco community loves you. 

In our minds and hearts forever. Image captured by Bosco Junior Nicholas Neoman.

3 comments

  • Br. Leo Imbert, SDB

    I used to love having lunch with Ish in the Salesian dining room. His stories working security on campus, as a bouncer, or of his many passions in life were epic. I will miss my good friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  • As always, beautifully written Josh. You have honored Ish with a lovely tribute and are a wonderful representative of a Bosco Brave. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Much love thank you for writing. Ish is the kindest and caring. From security & great man to becoming a great friend. Wish i had been back more to see him. He always checked in on mi, checked on mi family. The world is a bit sadder since his departure but it’s also a lot brighter for his arrival, care, and energy.

    Liked by 1 person

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