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Cal Poly custodian Francisco Ayala — who influenced many students’ lives — died on June 23.

Aerospace engineering sophomore Alan Faz noticed that Ayala would go out of his way to engage with students.

“For us, he was more than just a custodian. He was like a father figure for all of us,” Faz said. “For many of us, we get a culture shock or homesick and we kind of miss our parents’ advice. So he kind of became a person we could talk to about our problems whenever he was around in our dorms cleaning.”

According to Jon Fink, the custodial operations manager for residential life, Ayala began as a custodian in Facilities and later moved to University Housing. He described Ayala as lighthearted, inquisitive and someone who liked to engage with people and students on campus.

Faz is part of a cultural organization on campus called Movimiento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlan (MEXA). Some of their events reach out to local high schools and elementary schools, and they also provide tutoring, he said.

Even though Ayala was not an official part of MEXA, he went out of his way to help with the organization. He would provide Mexican food for the events and helped organize Dia del Trabajador (Labor Day), an annual barbecue for Cal Poly custodians put on by MEXA.

“He would add the extra humor into all our events and made everyone smile,” Faz said. “He was a very personable person. He really enjoyed communicating with staff as well as students. He was a very pleasant person, very helpful person and a very approachable person,” he said.

Ayala helped some of the students in residence halls plant strawberries this past year. He taught the students how to take care of them and continually looked after the plants, Faz said.

Faz plans to go back and take care of them in the future.

“I can say that he will be sincerely missed,” Fink said. “Our hearts go out to the family as well as the people that had worked with him for long periods of time and developed a strong relationship with him.”

The impact Ayala had on some of the students and staff will continue to last.

“The help, the connections and Francisco’s smile just kind of went beyond his job and what was expected from him,” Faz said. “Hopefully many treasured the help he provided to a lot of us and to all the first years, because he really has impacted our lives. He will be greatly missed. And of course, his smile (and) his personality will be in our hearts for many years to come.”

Ayala’s memorial service will be held at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness in Santa Maria on Saturday, followed by a celebration at the Filipino Community Center. In lieu of flowers, people may donate to the Francisco Ayala Memorial Fund at Rabobank.

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