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Family dedicates tree at Crane Park in remembrance of lost son
tree memorial pic
Tinsel and ornaments adorn one special tree at Crane Park; a tree planted in memory of son, nephew and father Melchor Mino Holguin III, who was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Stevinson last June. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

For the Holguin family, the holidays have been an especially difficult time as they enter the Christmas season with one empty seat at the family table.

In early June, their son, nephew and father Melchor “Mino” Holguin III was found dead  in Stevinson. Although the family is still grieving six months following Holguin’s death, they have found a place of comfort and peace at Crane Park, where his family donated a tree as a memorial to Holguin’s life.

“Mino was my sister’s oldest grandson,” said Mayra DeMartini, who donated the tree to the City park. “It has been devastating to the entire family. To see their hurt is just unbearable. Although they had him cremated, they needed a place to go for a memorial.”

Holguin, who died at the age of 30, was raised in the Turlock area and attended Turlock High School. As an avid outdoorsman, Holguin had a passion for hunting, fishing and the heritage that he shared with his family and close friends. He was also a long-time member of the Modesto Houndsmen, and the vice president of the California Sporting Dog Association, Turlock Chapter.

His untimely death came as a shock to the family, leaving them with heavy hearts and a feeling of severe loss.

“It is one thing to lose a life to illness, but to lose someone because of an idiot creates a hole that cannot be filled,” said DeMartini. “What I wanted to do was create a place where his family could go to have a moment of peace.”

DeMartini says that she chose Crane Park, as she believes it is one of Turlock’s most beautiful locations.

“Even though it’s one of the oldest parks in the city, to me, Crane Park is one of the most beautiful places in the city,” said DeMartini. “I didn’t do this for recognition; I just did it to help the people that are hurting.”

Holguin was survived by many family members who still feel the loss of their “Little Mino” every day, including his 4-year-old daughter.

“It’s just so sad because he left behind his 4-year-old daughter, who is always asking for her daddy,” said DeMartini. “He was a good father. While he was at work, he would always call on his breaks just to check up on her. Now when the phone rings, she still asks if it’s her daddy calling.”

According to the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, Holguin was found dead inside of a car up street from a bar in Stevinson following a disturbance at the location. Investigators are still trying to determine if his death was in fact a homicide. Regardless, DeMartini says that the sudden death of Holguin left many questions for family members.

“It was like one day he’s here, and the next day he’s gone, and there’s no justification for what happened,” said DeMartini. “There’s so many people out there losing loved ones to stupid idiot people, who use intoxication or anger as an excuse for their actions, but that is not an excuse. There’s just too much hurt in this world, and the Bible tells us to help people and that’s why I did this. My parents, who were both pastors, taught me to give and to help. We need to do a little more kindness in this world.”

The family of Holguin held a private ceremony on Oct. 21 at Crane Park while dedicating the tree in honor of their lost loved one. His family says that they will visit the tree every April, the month that Holguin was born, to have a moment of peace and celebrate his life.

Working alongside the City of Turlock, the Holguin family helped City park staff plant the tree during their memorial ceremony.

“I’ve really appreciated the City throughout all of this,” said DeMartini. “It was so wonderful that they allowed our family to pick the location where we wanted the tree. The city workers dug the hole for it, and then were kind and patient enough to allow the children to help fill the dirt in. It really helped with our healing process, and we know it’s going to take a long time. We’re just so thankful they allowed something like this."