Porterville College mourns loss of advisor who died in crash

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Melba Aguirre may have just started working at Porterville College in June, but she was already a familiar face on campus.

So, when she failed to show up to work last Friday, her co-workers suspected something had gone wrong. An office schedule still hangs on Aguirre's now locked door. For Stephanie Olmedo-Hinde, it's the only physical reminder of a friend separated too soon.

"Every day before she left, she'd say, 'See you tomorrow,'" she said. "And Thursday night, that was the last time she said that to me."

Melba's co-workers said Porterville College was a perfect fit for Melba. She was headed to the college from her home in Farmersville, when California Highway Patrol officers said fog blurred a tractor trailer's view, causing the driver to run a stop sign and crash into her.

"Everyone was in disbelief," school advisor Katherine Figueroa said. "She was just here, it was very shocking."

On Monday, co-workers and students were still in a daze. Many choked back tears when thinking of her.

"She had this bright beautiful smile," Figueroa said of Melba. "Very caring, she had a beautiful soul."

Friends said Melba's office was a place where lives were changed and shaped. She worked with disabled and low-income students, and she not only provided advice but she gave emotional support as well.

"Sometimes these students just want to hear from someone, 'You can do it, I believe in you,'" Olmedo-Hinde said. "And she was really good at that."

It was a rare gift that fellow counselors said they will never forget. And they continue to celebrate through their own work every day.

"That's going to be our mantra for all of us from now on," Olmedo-Hinde said. "That was Melba. This was her passion. We got to live up to her."

Services for Melba will be held next Monday. For those grieving on campus, counselors will be available until the end of this week.
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