The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.
EUSTIS, Florida — Seventeen years ago Adrick Rojas pushed his best friend’s sister down on a bed and kissed her. And there began a love story spanning nearly two decades that included the couple moving to Lake County and bringing four children into this world who are loved dearly.
“Our first kiss! We were sitting in my brother’s room and my brother walked out for whatever reason. Adrick pushed me down on the bed and kissed me! Then [he] looked at me and yelled, ‘You kissed me!”
“I didn’t kiss you! You kissed me!”
“I definitely didn’t kiss you! You pinned me down! I’m telling your brother!”
“And then he kissed me again.”
Rojas’ wife Shannon, spoke with this reporter Monday, about her husband, just six weeks and one day after he passed away in a tragic crash and spoke about their children and their life together, including the kiss that started it all.
Growing up in South Florida, Rojas, 36, was Shannon’s brother’s best friend and the two sets of parents were best friends as well, Shannon said. Shannon’s grandparents were looking to move to The Villages and instead found 12.5 acres in Eustis. In 2004, when Shannon and Adrick’s oldest daughter, Mikaylee was just two months old, they moved to Lake County and began their new life together. The family property is like a compound, Shannon laughed; her grandparents gave her brother and parents three acres each, along with Shannon and Adrick.
Adrick, who learned his gardening skills from his mom, grew tomatoes, strawberries and peppers also built Shannon a garden and koi pond. “He built me a special garden where I park,” she said.
Shannon’s strength was apparent as she spoke with this reporter; although she choked back tears several times during the interview, she also acknowledged Adrick made a mistake the evening of Aug. 16.
“He was irresponsible in his speed, 100 percent. I cannot defend him on that,” she said, “but he was so much more than that. That one mistake is not what makes you.”
According to a report released by Mount Dora Spokeswoman Lisa McDonald, witnesses told Mount Dora Police Adrick was driving southbound around 80 miles per hour, near 4150 Highway 19A in a 2001 black Ford Expedition around 6:45 p.m. when he attempted to pass another driver. He crossed over the double line, lost control and rolled the SUV three times and was ejected. He was killed less than a block from his job, Simplex, Inc. a glass and mirror business, located at 4085 North Highway 19A.
Adrick, who worked in construction most of his life picked up his skills from both of his dads and could do it all, Shannon said. “[He could do] anything you could think of in construction.”
Adrick was an avid skateboarder for many years. Everywhere the family went the skateboard was in the trunk, Shannon remembers fondly. “He had our babies on a skateboard.”
The couple has four children, and they all miss their father desperately. Shannon said he was a very active father and they referred to him as their “bearded Disney Daddy.” The children shared some of their tender memories.
“Dad was my gossip buddy. He would hear about everything I had to say. Even at 6:30 every morning when he drove me to school. I miss you Dad,” said Mikaylee, 15.
Maddox, 12, the couple’s only son, has stepped up as the ‘man of the house,’ Shannon said. He misses his father terribly. “He really liked playing sports with me. I miss you a lot, Dad.”
Maylani, 6, who would wait at the door with her little sister Mila and the family’s two dogs for their Daddy to come home every day so they could ride on his back like a horse, misses their tea parties. “He would play dress up with us and let us put pretty bows in his hair and beard! I love you so much, Daddy! My Daddy was the best Daddy in the world!”
Three-year-old Mila waves to her Daddy in the sky each day, Shannon told LLN. “My Daddy dance with me! Daddy’s in the sky! I love my Dad.”
Shannon and her children struggle with the loss each day, “The only thing keeping me going is those four babies,” but next month will be especially hard. The couple shares the same birthday — Oct. 17. This will be the first birthday in 17 years they spent apart, Shannon (one year older than Adrick) told LLN with a laugh; she was always known as the cougar because she is one year older.
Though Shannon spoke of many things she loved about Adrick, she said it was his smile that always got to her. It was infectious, he lit up a room and was the life of the party. “His smile. Everything about his smile.”
Shannon visits Adrick’s grave each Sunday and cleans up and brings fresh flowers; a plaque at the gravesite reads, “If I had my life to do over again… I’d find you sooner so I could love you longer.”
“I want him remembered as an amazing friend and a great father. He was just amazing.”