Raul Escamillo, Vice Principal

Raul Escamillo: Educator Escamillo mourned by all

Raul Escamillo was a devoted family man and admired educator who was remembered as someone able to bring out the best in people.

The Montgomery High School assistant principal died of head injuries Tuesday after being on life-support systems at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Escamillo, 49, suffered the injuries when his car ran into a lumber truck on Interstate 5 Monday night.

Escamillo, of Encinitas, had only been at Montgomery for 1 1/2 years, but already he had made a lasting impression, colleagues said. Most memorable, they said, was his ability to bring out the best in his students and resolve conflicts with persuasiveness and dignity.

“He was a real balance to all this chaos,” said Sally Hopkins, Escamillo’s fellow assistant principal at Montgomery, which is in the Sweetwater Union High School District.

“He had a real high standard for kids and he expected them to rise to the occasion. He didn’t tell them he wanted them to do well, he expected them to do well.”

Although classes were beginning to settle into the routine of state tests yesterday, outside there were signs of respect for Escamillo.

The flag flew at half-staff and the school marquee said: “Mr. Escamillo, the Montgomery community will miss you. Rest in Peace.”

Inside, Escamillo’s family and friends had the bittersweet job of cleaning out his office. There was the vase of fresh flowers that he had filled each day. And the wall-size board that held every teacher’s name, classroom, class size and schedule.

Escamillo’s sister, Leonor Howe, said he was most proud of that huge master schedule.

“He just finished it Friday and he was happy that he could go home and relax,” Howe said.

Relaxing meant jogging on the beach three times a week and playing racquetball much of the rest of the time, said his wife of 26 years, Irma.

Before coming to Montgomery, Escamillo spent several years at Torrey Pines High School, where he served as assistant principal, said Irma Escamillo. Escamillo also was an assistant principal at Oak Crest Junior High School and San Dieguito High School, both in Encinitas.

“This is a sad time for two communities — for his friends in North County and for his friends here,” Irma Escamillo said.

Escamillo, who was born in Douglas, Ariz., graduated from the University of Arizona in 1965 and began his teaching career at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, the school made famous by the movie “Stand and Deliver.”

He had a close-knit family, with a daughter, Marie, 23, and a son, Michael, 19. The family would spend their holidays and vacations in Arizona.

“I treated him like a king when he came home (to Arizona),” Howe said. “He was my companion when my son got married because I was widowed.

“He was the backbone of the family. He was always there.

“God was his first love. But I know after that, his students came next.”

As Escamillo’s family gathered up some last things at the office, they said it was comforting to know that he was so well loved by those at Montgomery High School.

“Even though we loved him, you could tell the community really loved him, too,” said another sister, Lupe Von Soosten.

Services were scheduled to be held today at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Encinitas, with burial at Eternal Hills Cemetery in Oceanside.

By Lillian E. Heffernan, published in the Evening Tribune, San Diego, October 19, 1990