On Saturday, Bob Morales died. Morales, the older brother of famed musician Ritchie Valens, was an icon in his own right. He was immortalized in La Bamba by Esai Morales, who captured his grittiness and his pain.
Bob, a resident of Watsonville, California, died at the age of 81 after suffering from prostate cancer. He became involved with the local music scene, particularly the group Guitars not Guns. Morales, who smoked weed every day as an adult, was known for his style – leather coats and Nikes – and was asked about his brother every day of his life.
“People would ask him about Ritchie and he would well up with tears and cry,” his daughter, Bly Morales, told KION.
It’s one reason Bob always told people he loved how he felt about them. “He always told people, ‘Always tell the people you care about that you love them because you might not know when you will see them again,’” Joanie Morales, his wife, told Mercury News. “He told me every single day, ‘Somebody asks me about my brother.’”
Bob, who worked at a rehabilitation center, also welcomed people who needed help into his home. His children grew accustomed to him bringing people in who needed a shower and a meal. “We would always come home with someone in the house, dad’s new friend, we’d say,” Genevieve Diamond-Morales said. “Dad would tell us, ‘Oh, he’s just going to take a shower and get some food.’ He was just real. He never judged you. He loved us no matter what and guided us to rise above.”
He was also something of a local celebrity. Though he was known for speeding, he never got a ticket – even after losing his license 25 years ago. Officers only gave him warnings when they realized who he was.
“A few months ago, he went to the pot shop to get his medicine. It was closed and he flipped a U-turn and got pulled over,” Bly Morales said. “A cop asked for his license and registration. He said he doesn’t have a license. They got to talking about who my father was and he ran to his car and got a torn piece of paper. He said ‘Sign the paper, sir. Just sign it. Have a good night, grandpa. My daughter loves that movie.’”
As many people have paid tribute to Bob, Esai Morales has also weighed in. He initially posted a message on Thursday asking people to keep him in their prayers. On Sunday, he took to Facebook to say goodbye.