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Sebastopol man killed in Highway 101 crash was beloved community servant, leader

Carlos Del Pozo was looking forward to retirement next week following a 25-year career at Community Action Partnership Sonoma County, which provides an array of services aimed at achieving economic and social stability and justice.

The Sebastopol man managed CAP’s Padres Unidos program, designed to give parents tools to intervene if their children start getting into gangs or other risky behaviors. To finance the program, he organized pozole night fundraisers that drew political and community leaders from across the county to Roseland Elementary School.

News of his death Thursday in a traffic crash on Highway 101 left family, colleagues and friends grappling with the hole left in their lives and the broader community.

“I had talked to him in the morning right before this happened,” said Vince Harper, community engagement coordinator for Community Action Partnership Sonoma County and longtime friend and colleague of Del Pozo. “We were setting up to deal with his last day details.”

Del Pozo, 58, had been prepared to retire this week from his position as a program manager, Harper said, with plans to join his wife and young daughter in New York.

“It’s so heartbreaking,” Harper said. “There was so much hope and so much … that could be that he was on the cusp of.”

In addition to his wife and daughter in New York, Del Pozo is survived by a daughter from his previous marriage, said his nephew, Boris Del Pozo.

“He always tried to give them the best education, and make sure they lacked nothing,” he said in Spanish.

Harper said that when Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County announced Carlos Del Pozo’s retirement on Facebook several days ago, the public’s reaction to the news highlighted the depth of his impact on the community of Roseland and beyond.

“I tagged him on (the post),” Harper said. “I wanted him to see what people were saying about him.”

Del Pozo, Harper said, “just was not the kind of person who liked being in the spotlight.”

The pozole nights he arranged to raise money for his work with local Latino families through the Padres Unidos program were carefully thought-out events, Harper said. Del Pozo would make sure to invite community leaders and elected officials, from Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies to the district attorney and mayor of Santa Rosa — and he’d put them to work serving food and clearing tables.

He saw it as an important community engagement opportunity, a way to build relationships, Harper said.

Carlos Del Pozo poses with then-Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey at a Pozole Night event, held at Roseland Elementary School in 2015. (Courtesy of Vince Harper)
Carlos Del Pozo poses with then-Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey at a Pozole Night event, held at Roseland Elementary School in 2015. (Courtesy of Vince Harper)

Carlos also ran the Southwest Family Resource Center in the Roseland School District, pivoting to a mobile format and continuing to conduct home visits when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted regular school routines.

“He was so empathetic,” Harper said. “One of the things I appreciated a lot about him is his willingness to go where families are and not to make families come to him.”

Boris Del Pozo, who lives in Hawthorne, said his uncle was “a person you could trust, a great friend and mentor. He was always there to listen to you and lend you a hand if you needed.”

Carlos Del Pozo was born in Antigua, Guatemala, in 1962, his nephew said. He emigrated to the United States in his early 20s, working different jobs before starting at Community Action Partnership Sonoma County.

Family members often tell a story from Del Pozo’s childhood. One day, Del Pozo made friends with another little boy who was shining shoes in a park, his nephew said. When Del Pozo saw the boy had no shoes of his own, he went home, put all of his shoes and some clothes in a bag, and went back to the park to give them to the boy. That night, Del Pozo’s mother asked him where all his shoes had gone. Del Pozo told her he had given them to a boy who needed them more than he did, his nephew recounted.

“That was how my uncle’s soul was,” Boris Del Pozo said. “He always wanted to help others, and he took a backseat to do so.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.

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