Well-loved figure remembered here
Story by Eli Ruiz
ROCK HILL February 8, 2013 - On January 4 Sullivan County native Rafael Rodriguez, 46, was murdered during robbery gone terribly wrong at the eatery where he was bartending/managing in Boca Raton, FL.
According to Boca Raton authorities, the restaurant called Josephine’s and owned by Rodriguez’s girlfriend Josephine Tribunella had been closed when at approximately 11:30 p.m. a group of four masked and armed men rushed into the Italian eatery as Rodriguez was letting one of the waiters out a back door. The men demanded cash and valuables from Rodriguez and six of his friends who were still lingering in the restaurant after hours.
According to eyewitness accounts Rodriguez somehow engaged the masked men in some dialogue which led to him being shot once in the stomach. Rodriguez was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he later died.
Back up in Sullivan County it’s apparent that Rodriguez was a very popular and loved individual. Proof of just how well regarded Rodriguez was, and still is, in these parts was clear last Friday at Dutch’s Tavern in Rock Hill. Well over 100 people showed up for a fundraiser to benefit Rodriguez’s family.
The event had more the feel of a celebration of the man’s life than a fundraiser, though, as folks could be heard sharing stories about Rodriguez and his kind heart and gregarious manner.
“He was the nicest guy you could ever meet, he’d give you the shirt off his back, and I know that sounds clichéd, but he really would give you the shirt off his back,” said John Brewer, the organizer of Friday evening’s event and a very close friend of Rodriguez
Three local bands, including the popular Far Beyond Gone and The Other Band played through the evening and there was plenty of food and beverage for all, along with a raffle and 50/50 drawing. Although there was no cover to attend, donations were also collected.
Said Dutch’s owner/operator Ed Gallet, “I think we’ve kind of become the kind of go to place for community events. In this community everyone knows everyone and when people reach out for a central location they tend to think of Dutch’s.”
Gallet and his wife Kristine dedicated nearly the whole of last weekend to fundraisers. Added Gallet, “It’s just incredible the amount of people in this county who are willing to pitch in when tragedies like this happen. I mean these bands we had tonight and tomorrow are playing completely free of charge… I think that’s an incredible gesture, and it speaks to just how close knit and giving the people of Sullivan County are.”
According to friends, Rodriguez a Monticello native who always wanted to move to Florida finally made the move in 2001 to pursue his dream of becoming a real estate agent and to enjoy the warm climes. “It was his dream and he was finally living it,” said Jenny Hilton Martinez of Rock Hill. “We went down to see him last year and they [Rodriguez and his girlfriend] were just so happy. Everything was going so well for him and he even tried to push my husband and I to move down there…
“It’s just so sad,” added Hilton-Martinez.
Rodriguez’s best friend from childhood, Sixto Martinez, said, “You’ll never meet a better guy, he was the best… we’ll all miss him so much. It’s just been very hard.”
Martinez, who’s been following the investigation into the killing, affirmed, “The police are very close to naming a suspect and that’s what we want, we want justice for Rafael… we won’t rest until he gets that justice either.”
Somehow, you get the feeling that there are many people in Sullivan County collectively hoping for the same.
Anyone interested in making a donation to the family of Rafael Rodriguez can give a call to Dutch’s Tavern at 794-8950, or stop by at 204 Rock Hill Drive in Rock Hill.