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Giving back to his home country

The family of Galo Ulloa, 65, wants to help other Ecuadorian orphans like him.

January 01, 2011|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com
(Cheryl A. Guerrero )

Everything happens for a reason, even an unexpected death.

Galo Ulloa — a 65-year-old motorcyclist who died when he collided with a big rig at Buena Vista Street and Burbank Boulevard Nov. 30 while passing through the intersection on his way to work — will go on to help other in memoriam through an orphanage, his family said.

Ulloa's family, who held a memorial service Thursday for the 25-year resident, say they moved past the grief stage and now want to celebrate his life with an orphanage in his memory.

Ulloa, orphaned at the age of 8 in a small town in Ecuador, learned to survive and work hard at an early age.

He traveled to the city of Guayaquil with his young cousin and by the age of 10, he had his own shoe-shining business. Ulloa and his cousin were too young to rent an apartment and slept in whatever boats were at the river ferry dock. They carried passenger luggage for change.

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When they didn't have the money to buy food, they would dive into the water and eat clams they pulled off the reef.

"My father wanted to live the American dream and have a family," said his 36-year-old son Dave Ulloa. "He wanted to buy his own house and be able to pay it off."

In his early 20s, Ulloa made his way to New York City, where he started working two to three jobs at a time as a busboy and dishwasher.

While he worked his way up to being a manager at Squire's Diner in New York City, he married his wife Maria, and had three children, Walter, now 37, Amy, 35, and Dave.

The family moved to Burbank in 1986 and Ulloa started the process over again, working two jobs, including a position at the historic Canter's Deli in Los Angeles.

"He never made more than $50,000 a year," his son recalls with pride. "But just before his death he finished paying off his house, exactly like he wanted."

Ulloa and his wife were planning on retiring in Cuenca, Ecuador, and dividing their remaining years between the United States and a new home in South America.

The day Ulloa died, Nathally Florio, a family friend of Dave's who lives in Cedar Grove, N.J., returned from a trip to Cuenca. During her time in Ulloa's home country, she had visited La Esperanza, an orphanage within the city limits.

The home, which houses 27 children and provides counseling, food, shelter and an education for the children, was at capacity and could not accept other orphans.

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