The murder of Celia BarquÍn Arozamena was unbearable, but the deeper you dig, the more tragic it gets
For all of Celia Barquín Arozamena’s spectacular accomplishments — a 3.38 GPA as a civil engineering major at Iowa State, the Big 12 Player of the Year award in 2018 — the most special thing about her was the way she made people feel. Nearly every day Celia set aside time from her crammed schedule to handwrite notes to those in need, whether it was a teammate who had missed a big putt or a friend who had whiffed a big test. She would stash the letters in their textbooks or backpacks, and these pick-me-ups were so treasured there are dorm rooms across Iowa State papered with her tidy script. Celia’s heartfelt testimonials at St. Thomas Aquinas church, in downtown Ames, Iowa, often moved fellow believers to tears. She was a nurturer who loved to cook for friends, her go-to dish a Spanish omelet with a recipe imported from her homeland.
Among the Cyclonitas—Celia’s nickname for her Cyclone teammates at Iowa State, where she first enrolled in the fall of 2014—there is a favorite video of her showily flipping an omelet in the pan, only to splash oil on the stove and ignite a fireball. Displaying the composure of a champion, she slowly tiptoes backward while somehow saving the omelet. Gathered recently on a leather sofa in their lux training facility, the Cyclonitas watch the video yet again, and a couple of them laugh so hard they have to wipe away tears.
“I have never known anyone who gave so much of themself to so many people,” says the team’s coach, Christie Martens, sitting among them. “It wasn’t just the kind gestures she always did but also the energy she put out into the world.”
But this sweetheart also had a fire inside of her. A budding feminist, Celia told her mother she chose engineering as a major because so few women do so, and she wanted to set a powerful example for others. During a junior tournament near her hometown of Puente San Miguel (pop. 3,201), a village in Cantabria in northern Spain, a competitor once told Celia that her yellow shirt was a bad luck color, so she defiantly adopted it as her trademark. Her hero was Seve Ballesteros, and Celia played with the same duende. Combine that with her precise ballstriking and molten putter and she was a terror in match play, during one multi-year stretch losing only one out of 21 partner matches for the Spanish national team. Celia was only 5’2” and so petite she wore a size 2. “She was tiny, but she was a warrior,” says Luna Sobrón, a fellow member of the Spanish team.
In the face of such passion, kindness, brains and beauty, poor Carlos Negrin Bolaños never had a chance. As a pair of engineering majors from Spain, Carlos and Celia seemed destined for each other. But she had a boyfriend throughout much of her sophomore and junior years, so Carlos settled into the role of dutiful best friend while concealing his deeper feelings. For more than a year he endured this exquisite torture, and then suddenly Celia was single — but Carlos was, he says, too much of a “coward” to make a move. Leaving one evening for a road trip with the Cyclonitas, Celia asked Carlos to escort her to her car. Upon parting she grabbed his sweater, pulled him close and planted on him a passionate kiss — then drove away without saying a word.
“I ran into my apartment and tackled my roommate,” Carlos remembers. “I was yelling, ‘It finally happened, we kissed!’ We broke out a special bottle of rum from back home and had a toast. I had told Celia if we ever kissed I was going to shoot off fireworks. She thought I was joking, but I had already bought the fireworks just in case, so I lit them and filmed it and sent her a video. She was one in a million — one in a billion — and I couldn’t believe she was finally mine.”
The two were inseparable after that, their pillow-talk filled with dreams of a wedding venue and even the names of their future kids. In May of last year, Carlos graduated and took a job at an engineering firm in Ames. Celia had just finished her superlative Iowa State playing career but still had a few classes left to complete her degree. She would spend the summer in Spain, then return to Iowa for the fall semester, using that time to prepare for the LPGA Q School in November 2018. Celia had little interest in fame or glory but was desperate to succeed as a pro for one reason: “She had big dreams of giving her parents an easier life,” says teammate Amelia Grohn. “She talked a lot about wanting to buy them a house and take care of them.”
Miriam Arozamena and Marcos Barquín met as teenagers and married young, settling in Puente San Miguel, where Marcos’s family goes back eight generations. Marcos is a butcher, Miriam worked at a clothing store until their first child, Andrés, was born, when she became a homemaker. Theirs has always been a simple life in which family is everything. With the birth of Celia six years later, the couple dedicated themselves to giving their two children opportunities the likes of which they could never have dreamed of for themselves. Andrés recently graduated from one of Spain’s best law schools.
Celia was extremely close with her family, Skyping them four or five times a day, much to the delight of her eavesdropping Iowa State teammates. “The first time I heard them on the phone I thought they were fighting because they were talking so loud and so fast in Spanish,” says sophomore Alana Campbell. “But that was just how they were, always so excited to talk to each other.”
The family was thrilled to welcome Celia home for the summer, to their cramped apartment in Puente San Miguel, its walls covered in family photos. Celia reclaimed her old bedroom, with stuffed animals on the bed, books by Chuck Palahniuk and Robert Louis Stevenson on the shelves, and a framed picture of her with Seve Ballesteros taken seven years earlier. She worked hard on her game, with Miriam accompanying her on these long practice sessions. Walking the fairways together, mother and daughter often held hands.
Last July, Celia journeyed to Slovenia and roared to victory at the European Ladies’ Amateur Championship, powered by a third-round 63. “After she won,” remembers Marcos, “neighbors were shouting from the windows that we needed to have a party when she came home to celebrate the victory.” So they did, replete with a handmade sign and champagne, and a crowd gathered in the courtyard to welcome home the pride of Puente San Miguel. Reflecting in her diary on the summer — which included competing in the U.S. Women’s Open thanks to a scorching 31 in the final nine holes of her qualifier — Celia wrote, “I felt loved, supported and filled with purpose.”
* * * * *
September 17th was a warm, clear morning, and Celia arrived at Coldwater Golf Links eager to squeeze in some holes before her afternoon classes. She was living with Carlos and settling into a new reality: No longer an active Cyclonita, she would have to walk alone on the journey to Q School. On the drive to Coldwater, Celia had chatted on the phone with her mom. Miriam sometimes fretted about her daughter’s independence, but she never worried about her playing by herself. “I always felt a golf course was the safest place for her,” Miriam says.
Coldwater is one of Iowa State’s home courses, and the staff there loved having Celia around. On this day, they warned her that fifteen older gents had driven down from Des Moines and would be sent off for an 8:45 a.m. shotgun start across the first four holes. Celia set out alone with a pushcart, playing the first hole and then cutting over to number four to get in front of the old-timers. She was standing on the fourth tee when a foursome of them arrived in their carts. “We told her to go ahead because we didn’t want to slow her down,” says Harley Thornton, 80. “She was a very polite, very cheerful young lady. She cracked a drive down the middle and away she went.”
Coldwater’s seventh hole plays alongside Squaw Creek Park. A heavily used exercise path cuts through the park, but otherwise it’s mostly dense forest. The locals steer clear of the woods for good reason: The homeless have long camped there, across the river from the golf course, and in 2008 a knife fight broke out, with one man ending up dead and his assailant ultimately imprisoned for second-degree murder.
Coldwater’s eighth hole is a short par 3. A greenskeeper saw Celia playing it and they waved to each other. To reach the ninth tee, players cross a bridge and the wide exercise path, then cut through a patch of forest. “I always felt that was one of the most foreboding spots I’ve ever seen on a golf course,” says Thornton. “It looks like Sleepy Hollow. I’m friendly with a high school golf coach, and he told me that a couple of young women who regularly play there always run from eight green to number-nine tee box because it’s so spooky in there.”
When Thornton and his playing partners arrived at the ninth tee they could see Celia’s pushcart in the left-center of the fairway, exactly where you’d expect her drive to settle on a gentle dogleg left. They waited a few minutes for her to reappear, then struck their drives and drove to her bag in the fairway. It was a confounding scene. Visible on the tray of the trolley was Celia’s cell phone and rangefinder. Her Iowa State cap was about twenty yards away and a handful of tees were scattered about the fairway as if they had fallen out of her pockets. Thornton immediately had an uneasy feeling and called the pro shop to voice his concern. It was just after 10 a.m. An employee came out in a golf cart and said he would search the course. Less than half an hour later he spotted a lifeless body floating in a pond near the ninth tee. It was Celia. She had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and torso.
A search dog tracked Celia’s scent to a tent in the woods in Squaw Creek Park. Police were examining the area when pudgy, baby-faced Collin Richards suddenly appeared, saying he had come to retrieve his tent. Like Celia, he was 22, but if her life had been defined by love and achievement, his was the diametric opposite: a toxic mix of family instability, reform school, substance abuse, violence and trouble with the law. Richards had fresh scratches on his face and a deep laceration on his left hand that was still oozing blood. He was detained by police, and interviews with a man he had been camping with and two associates Richards had enlisted for a ride out of town led detectives to a nearby house. The owner, an acquaintance, said Richards had just come by to change out of clothes that were covered in dirt and blood. The drifter who had been camping in the Squaw Creek woods alongside him told police Richards usually carried a long, serrated knife to cut wood. He also conveyed a chilling detail: The day before, Richards said he had an urge to rape and kill. Only a matter of hours after Celia’s body had been discovered, Collin Richards was arrested for murder in the first degree.
* * * * *
In Puente San Miguel, Celia’s family knew nothing of these rapid developments, but they were worried sick because she never failed to respond to their daily calls and texts. Now it had been five or six hours of silence. Police officers in Ames were trying to reach their counterparts in Puente San Miguel and embassy personnel in Madrid so the awful news could be delivered in person to Celia’s family, but it was after midnight in Spain and no one was answering the phone. So it was left to Coach Martens to make the hardest phone call of her life. Celia had come to Iowa State largely because of the bond she felt with a young, chipper coach who turned her program into one big family. During a recruiting visit Miriam had asked only one question: Will you take care of Celia as if she were your own daughter? For four years, Coach Martens had done exactly that. Now she had to tell Miriam that Celia was gone. Marcos remembers little from that night, only that he felt intense physical pain throughout his body, as if he himself had been attacked.
Celia’s murder instantly became national news in the U.S. and one of the biggest stories of the year in Spain. The shock was compounded not just by the savagery of her killing but also the randomness, as police believe she had no connections to Richards. All of Ames mourned Celia’s death, including a candlelight vigil that drew thousands. On Sept. 22, when the Iowa State football team hosted Akron, Celia had been scheduled to receive an award at halftime for being the school’s most outstanding female student-athlete for the 2017-18 school year. On that day the Cyclones walked solemnly onto the field holding hands in a powerful gesture of solidarity, and the halftime ceremony went on as scheduled. The sellout crowd turned out in yellow to honor Celia, and when the band spelled out her initials — CBA — on the field, the stadium shook.
Harley Thornton was a fighter pilot in Vietnam. He has long known death, but his voice cracks when discussing Celia. “This has really affected me deeply,” he says. “The senselessness of it is overwhelming. Such a promising young person with her whole life in front of her, gone just like that. What kind of monster would do such a thing to this sweet young girl?”
* * * * *
Evil emerges, it’s not born. “Collin was a good baby,” Jennifer Baker says of her son. “He was normal in every way.” She met Collin’s father, William Richards, when they were teenagers, and gave birth to Collin at age 21. Their roots are in Coon Rapids and Guthrie Center, two tiny towns in west-central Iowa about 20 minutes apart. Baker and Richards never married, and she has little to say about him or the relationship. A Coon Rapids local who shot pool in the same league as Collin’s father agreed to speak about him but only anonymously, saying, “He’s a mean sonofabitch. You know how in every bar there’s one guy who has a certain look in his eye and you know you want to steer clear of him? That’s Bill.” (Richards declined to comment for this article.) For reasons that Baker won’t discuss, Richards had custody of Collin as a boy, though he also lived for long stretches with his paternal grandparents. “I remember one time Bill was having a drink and I asked him, Where’s Collin?,” says Chuck Bates, the proprietor of Chuck’s Bar & Grill, the only sit-down restaurant in Coon Rapids. “He said he was at home crying himself to sleep. I guess that was his parenting style.”
Collin’s mom gained custody when he was 10. She had married Tom Baker, and they had a young son and daughter. They lived in the country, and Collin was most at peace playing in the woods, where he would build forts and battle imaginary foes. The Bakers ran a strict household, and Collin did well with this structure — his room was so spotless they used to joke he should join the Army. Steve Smith is the superintendent of the school district that encompasses Guthrie Center, and after Collin’s arrest he went back and spoke to his former teachers. “When something like this happens and one of your former students is involved, it’s natural to wonder, Did we miss something?” says Smith. “But by all accounts, he was a good student who didn’t have any behavioral problems.”
As Collin entered his teenage years he began to spend more time at his father’s house. “Over there it was the polar opposite of what we wanted and what we allowed,” says Tom Baker. Clashes between Collin and his mother and stepfather became frequent, and she grew concerned about the intensity of his outbursts. “He had a lot of anger, a lot of aggression,” says Jennifer. She took him to a therapist a couple of times, but shortly before his 15th birthday, the Bakers kicked Collin out of their house. Says Tom, “We gave him many chances, but he didn’t want to follow our rules.”
Marty Arganbright, the sheriff of Guthrie County, was friends of the family and tried, he says, to “look out” for Collin, who would eventually spend time at three different residential facilities for troubled youth. Arganbright estimates that between Collin’s 15th and 18th birthdays, he and his deputies had a dozen “contacts” with him, on charges ranging from operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent to possession of drug paraphernalia. “He wasn’t a bad kid,” says Arganbright, “but when he was using, that had a very big effect on his behavior. It changed who he was.”
“Meth was the big problem,” Jennifer Baker says.
While opioid addiction has become a leading public health crisis across much of the United States, methamphetamines remain a pernicious problem in Iowa, in part because a key ingredient in its home-cooked production is anhydrous ammonia, a common farm fertilizer. In Guthrie County, indictable felony offenses spiked 64 percent from 2013 to 2017, and the sheriff estimates that more than half of the crime is related to meth—theft and other illicit activities to pay for the drugs, and then all the human wreckage that tweakers leave in their wake. “It is the nastiest drug there is,” says Arganbright. “It fries the brain and the nervous system and revs people up to the point that violence becomes almost inevitable.”
When Collin was 18, he had a girlfriend more than twice his age. In May 2015, he was arrested for first-degree domestic abuse. He was found guilty and subsequently sentenced to 60 days in jail. On another occasion, after being accused of shoplifting at a convenience store, he threatened to return and “shoot up the place.” Collin’s life was spinning out of control, but seemingly no one was paying attention. In the two years that followed the domestic abuse case, he wracked up arrests for theft, criminal mischief, harassment and attempted burglary. He was ordered to take a series of behavior modification courses but, says his mom, “He blew them off. And there were no consequences. This was always very frustrating to me because he was never held fully accountable, even by the courts. He always skated by.”
In November 2017, Collin was remanded to the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility for a two-year sentence related to theft and burglary convictions and probation violations. Despite disciplinary problems that included a brawl with another inmate, he was paroled after only seven months. “There is no truth in sentencing under Iowa law,” says Jessica Reynolds, the prosecutor for Story County, which includes Ames. “There are simply not enough prison beds.” On his first day of freedom — June 4, 2018, three months before Celia’s murder — Collin stopped by the Guthrie County sheriff’s department of his own volition. “All the drugs were out of his system, so he was respectful,” says Arganbright. “He said he had a lot of time to think in jail and he was ready to turn his life around.”
* * * * *
Champions are made, not born. “Celia was such a naughty child,” Miriam says with a hearty laugh. “She was so stubborn, always making a fuss.”
Celia poured all of her determination into golf. It was a family game: Miriam’s brother was an avid player, and he not only hooked his sister but also introduced the game to Marcos on their honeymoon. They passed on the ardor to their son, who competed in many junior golf tournaments with a swing Celia would later call the best in Cantabria. She was born a year after a new nine-hole golf course opened about 15 minutes from Puente San Miguel. Abra del Pas would become her home away from home. The course is built into a flood plain at the base of the La Picota foothills and the driving range is frequently a quagmire, so Celia always practiced in knee-high rain boots. Other kids complained about having to wade into the muck to shag their own balls, but Celia giddily sloshed through it because that meant she could keep practicing. “By the time she was seven or eight we could not get her off the driving range,” says Andrés. “She would challenge us so much we would get in the car and pretend to drive away. She would start to cry but still she wouldn’t budge.”
Since she was so much smaller than other girls her age, Celia intuited she would have to beat them other ways, so she worked tirelessly on her short-game. At every level, Celia would become renowned for hardly ever missing a fairway, a skill mandated by the cartoonish dimensions of Abra del Pas — in some spots the seventh fairway is only 11 paces wide. But there was another essential ingredient in Celia’s game that set her apart: “She played with so much heart,” says Luna Sobrón.
When it was raining at Abra del Pas, the kids in the golf school were brought into the clubhouse to watch highlight videos of Seve Ballesteros. Celia was mesmerized by his passion and determination, and she felt a special kinship since the five-time major champion grew up only 20 miles away, in the fishing village of Pedreña. Through junior golf Celia became friends with Seve’s daughter Carmen. They were once playing a tournament practice round together when Celia’s drive settled behind a tree. She asked her mom for advice on how to play the recovery shot. “I was shocked,” says Miriam. “How can you ask me such a thing in front of Seve?” The great man, standing close by, eagerly joined the discussion, demonstrating for Celia how to shape a low, hard hook. Ever after it was known simply as “a Seve shot.” Says Celia’s girlhood swing coach, Santiago Carriles, “Seve cared deeply about Celia. He thought of her as so petite and vulnerable, just like a doll, and yet he was very impressed because she played so well.”
Celia was recruited by many top colleges in the U.S., but she fell in love with Iowa State. The small-town vibe of Ames reminded her of home, and she loved the family feeling of the program. Celia instantly became a team leader, earning All-Big 12 honors as a freshman for both her golf and academics. But she gave little thought to a professional career until the 2017 Solheim Cup was played at Des Moines Country Club and the Cyclonitas attended as spectators. The atmosphere was electric, and watching the best players in the world up close Celia was struck by one thought: I can do that.
She proved it during her senior season, producing the third-best stroke average in school history (73.21). At the Big 12 championship, in April 2018, Celia was the only player under par on a brutal setup, and her teammates gathered behind the final green as she lined up a 30-footer to put an exclamation point on the victory. “That putt was good as soon as it left the putter,” says senior Chayanit Wangmahaport. “I think we were all crying before the ball even went in the hole.” It was the crowning moment of a superb career. For Celia, the future seemed limitless.
* * * * *
After Collin Richards was released from jail in June 2018, his mother and stepfather welcomed him back into their home. They had rekindled their relationship by exchanging letters while he was behind bars. “We wanted him to know he was still loved,” says Jennifer Baker. “We told him he could stay as long as he liked. The only rules were no drinking, no drugs, and we didn’t want his old druggie friends coming around.”
Within two weeks Collin had gotten himself kicked out again.
The Iowa Department of Public Health lists the following consequences of sustained meth use: paranoia, hallucinations, brain structure changes, reductions in thinking and motor skills, aggression, and mood swings, yet Baker feels strongly that her son has only himself to blame. “He made a choice,” she says. “He had a warm bed and home-cooked meals and people who wanted to support him, and he chose to go back to his old life.”
Collin headed for Ames, an hour to the east. For a while he found refuge at the town’s only homeless shelter, Emergency Residence Project (ERP), a converted three-bedroom house on a quiet residential street. Ames is bisected by I-35, which connects Kansas City and Minneapolis, so it’s a catch-all for many Midwestern drifters. Because demand for the shelter’s beds far exceeds the supply, Collin often had nowhere to sleep, so the Bakers bought him a tent.
He quickly came to the attention of the Ames police department. On June 29, he was arrested for public intoxication when he was found passed out in front of a liquor store. On Aug. 11, police received a complaint from a local Target that Collin and another man were camping on open land behind the store. They were forced to vacate the area but not cited. Collin told his mom the police instructed him to camp in Squaw Creek Park, out of sight and out of mind. This is disputed by Ames P.D. spokesman Commander Geoff Huff, who notes that overnight camping is illegal in the park. “We would never advise someone to break the law,” Huff says. But if the shelter is full, where is someone like Collin supposed to go? “I’m not trying to be rude,” he adds, “but that’s not our problem to solve.”
On Sept. 2—fifteen days before Celia’s murder—police were summoned to a Burger King on Lincoln Way. The ensuing incident report is ominous: “Richards was very emotional and agitated and appeared to be on something.… When he emptied his pockets, he opened his knife and had to be told to drop it…. He said he is upset about a breakup with his girlfriend. He was sent on his way to ERP.”
On Sept. 8, the Bakers drove to Ames to celebrate Collin’s 22nd birthday. They took him to dinner and a laundromat to wash his clothes. Jennifer was alarmed by his manner—Collin was uncommunicative and distant, mumbling monosyllabic answers to their questions. It was as if he had disappeared into his own head. They dropped him off at his tent in Squaw Creek Park, where he was camping with a new acquaintance named Dalton Barnes. On Sept. 16, Collin confided in Barnes his urge to rape and kill a woman. “It was like, ‘What the hell?’ It was sick,” Barnes later told a local TV station. But they were alone in the woods, and the moment passed.
The next morning Celia was dead.
Collin, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go on trial April 30. Through his attorney, Paul Rounds, he declined to comment for this story. Iowa is not a death penalty state, so even if Collin is convicted there will be no eye for an eye. Celia’s boyfriend Carlos is the gentlest of souls, but his features darken and his voice takes on a hard edge when discussing the alleged killer. “I hope this animal — because he’s no longer a person to me, he’s an animal — I hope he rots in jail,” he says. The anger is understandable. And perhaps it is easier to think of Collin as subhuman rather than to confront a hard truth: He is a young man whose trajectory could have been altered by many people and institutions before he was overtaken by darkness. The shelter in Ames not only lacked beds but funding to provide adequate mental-health and substance-abuse services. And were it not for Iowa’s overcrowded prisons — a failure that belongs to legislators, taxpayers and law enforcement — Collin would still have been behind bars the day Celia set out alone at Coldwater Golf Links for the last time.
The trial may or may not provide some understanding of what happened on that fateful morning. Was the killing premeditated, with the perpetrator hiding in the ghostly woods near Coldwater’s ninth tee, lying in wait for a lone jogger or golfer? Or did he spy Celia playing the seventh hole and race through the forest to catch up to her? Or was it the flukiest of timing, with the murderer traveling south on the exercise path, perhaps heading to use the bathroom at the Irish pub on nearby 16th Street, and Celia crossing in front of him just by chance after playing the eighth hole? Each scenario is equally terrifying.
* * * * *
For Celia’s loved ones, her death has cemented a feeling that the United States, for all the wonderful opportunities it offers, can be a violent and scary place. The U.S.’s per capita murder rate is 26 times that of Spain. Pablo Diestro is a native of Puente San Miguel who became mayor three years ago. (Before that he was a schoolteacher and Celia was one of his favorite students.) When was the town’s last murder? “The 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War,” he says. Puente is as small and boring as Coon Rapids or Guthrie Center, but the use of hard drugs is unheard of, according to Diestro. Why is rural, homogenous Iowa now racked by drugs and crime while Spain, with its far more relaxed laws, is not? Seated in a cafe across the street from stately City Hall, Diestro puts down his cup of coffee to think for a moment. “It is societal,” he says finally, with a sigh. Shortly after Celia’s death, Luna Sobrón was playing a tournament in Indiana. In line at a grocery store she was startled to see that the man in front of her had a handgun around his waist, at eye level with his young child, who was entranced by the dark metal. “It was a horrifying feeling,” she says.
After Celia’s death, the Cyclonitas participated in a march to raise awareness for violence against women. Volunteers with chainsaws razed the forest around the exercise path, opening up sightlines. But unease still lingers. Playing golf alone, lost in your thoughts, is one of the great pleasures of the game. Celia’s murder has shattered the illusion that a golf course is a sanctuary from society’s ills. “I’ve played a million rounds alone, but I’ll never do it again,” says Sobrón. “It’s sad to have lost that.”
Celia deserves a different legacy and she is getting it: Abra del Pas will soon be renamed for the little girl who learned the game there in rain boots. The sports pavilion in Puente San Miguel is also being rechristened for Celia. A mural of her likeness will be painted on the side of the building, along with her favorite hashtag: #PuedoPorquePiensoQuePuedo. I can because I think I can. At Coldwater, a lovely memorial to Celia has been built behind the ninth green, and the Spanish flag still flies above the clubhouse.
Carlos drives past the golf course every day on the way to work. “I try not to look but it is impossible not to,” he says. “It breaks me down every time.” He is in the process of relocating to Florida. “A very big piece of me is gone forever,” he says.
The Cyclonitas have played on through the pain. “She will always be a part of us and part of this program,” says Coach Martens. “We still talk about her like she’s here. Then you catch yourself.” For a moment the words will not come. “We all miss Celia terribly, but what a gift it is to have her as a role model. Not even talking about the golf side, just for the joy she exuded and how she lived life to the fullest.”
Celia’s brother Andrés lost 10 pounds from his slender frame in the first two weeks after his sister’s death. He had been unsure how to put his law degree to use, but now he has decided to become a policeman. “Celia’s death has been a real blow, but it helps me to focus on the desire to help other people,” he says. “It comforts me in a certain way. It’s a way to redeem the sadness I feel.”
Marcos wears the burden heavily. During a long interview in the family living room in Puente San Miguel, he often dropped his head into his hands, overcome by emotion. For months he has hardly slept, even now that he takes Valium. At night he finds himself squeezing Miriam, afraid to let go. “If I did not have my wife next to me to hug, I would go crazy,” he says. They find solace where they can: They have returned to the church after a long absence, and on the coffee table is a book titled Parables Que Consuelan. Parables that console. Playing golf with each other was always a beloved escape on the weekend, but both Marcos and Miriam have found that they no longer find joy in the game. But golf courses are where they feel Celia’s spirit most powerfully, so they take long walks at Santa Marina, a pastoral private club where Celia had been extended playing privileges, preferring to arrive late in the day when it is deserted. “It is where we go to cry,” says Marcos.
They have preserved Celia’s room exactly as she left it, with one notable addition: the engineering degree awarded posthumously by Iowa State. There is a treasured possession they often revisit to help keep Celia’s memory alive. She was famous at Iowa State for her detailed day-planners. The 2018 version has a plaid cover and metal-ringed binder. Every page is crammed with ornate to-do lists, photos, diary entries and perky affirmations (“You got this, girl”; “Be the best version of yourself”). It is practically a minute-by-minute account of her daily life. For Sept. 17th she put down only two short entries, including a reminder to study for an upcoming exam. The rest she would fill out later in the day, after a quick round of golf at Coldwater. But before heading out alone to play the game she loved, Celia added one last thing to her planner. It was a sticker: With a grateful heart.