CARLSBAD — For his daughter, Oceanside resident Aureo Duque was a teacher.
“My dad is the one who taught us everything we know: how to drive, how to work, and how to be respectful,” Sandra said. “I never heard him say a bad word.”
Before he was beaten to death while cleaning the outdoor grounds of a Carlsbad shopping center just before Christmas in 2021, Duque frequently took his four children to the park when they were young, showed them how to play baseball, and helped them with their events and school meetings.
He taught them that family comes first, Sandra said.
Duque came to the United States in the 1980s, temporarily leaving his wife, Honoria, and children behind in Mexico while he searched for a better life for his family.
“As soon as he could, he brought us here in 1990,” Sandra said. “Now, we hear stories that not all dads do that, but he was determined to change our future.”
Co-workers and family said Duque worked hard for 16 years as a maintenance worker for Lot Management, described by the property management company as a “valued employee.”
“He’s one of those people who would never call it out unless he was extremely sick. He’d get up in the morning at four a.m.,” Sandra said. “He was already 68, and he would still work six days a week if needed.”
As part of his routine cleaning duties, Duque regularly cleaned Plaza Paseo Real, a shopping mall adjacent to the Dove Library.
At approximately 10:22 a.m. in December 2021, Duque was performing his duties near the Cinépolis movie theater at the plaza when he was randomly attacked by 28-year-old Patrick Ferncase of Vista. According to the police, Ferncase, clad in all-black clothing and face mask at the time of the assault, had no prior relationship or connection to Duque.
The beating left Duque in a coma for five months, hospitalized with severe brain damage.
Ferncase was later convicted for the attempted murder of Duque and sentenced to 28 years in Kern Valley State Prison.
In March 2022, Ferncase, for no known reason, allegedly beat his cellmate to death at San Diego Central Jail while awaiting trial for the attack on Duque.
In September, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced plans to file a murder charge against Ferncase in the jail death.
‘Kind and gentle soul’
As Duque lay unconscious in a hospital bed in the weeks and months after the senseless assault, the family was learning more from the community about how much the humble, hard-working husband and father had impacted the people around him.
“Aureo is a kind and gentle soul,” Michael Levison wrote on Facebook in response to Lot Management’s post about the assault. “I would see him regularly in the shopping center, and we would always exchange greetings. Just last week, we wished each other a Merry Christmas.”
Duque’s daughter, Natalia McInnis, organized a GoFundMe to help pay medical costs, raising almost $35,000 through over 400 donations, including Levison’s $100 contribution.
Despite months of lifesaving efforts, Duque was unable to recover from his injuries. He died on May 9, 2022. He was 68.
Doug Hansen, a local travel writer, found Duque’s story to be moving, and even though the two had never met, Hansen was determined to preserve his memory.
“I thought, ‘Heck, that was the most horrible crime and murder you could ever imagine,’” Hansen said. “Why wouldn’t that man deserve to be remembered? He does deserve to be remembered.”
Hansen proposed the installation of a memorial tree and bench in Plaza Paseo Real, a place where Duque was known to many of the locals and regulars.
The plaza owners told him they weren’t interested in pursuing the project, so Hansen took his idea to social media, asking his neighbors on NextDoor if they knew how to get in touch with Duque’s surviving family members.
Aureo Duque and his wife, Honoria, outside the White House. Aureo, determined to give his family a good life, immigrated from Mexico in the 1980s.After contacting the family and with Sandra’s blessing, Hansen organized his first-ever GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of the memorial. To date, the campaign has raised $4,700, of which up to $3,000 will go towards the bench and tree, and the rest will be given to Duque’s family.
The extra donations will help cover travel costs for family members across the country to see the memorial’s unveiling.
Hansen has worked with city personnel to find potential locations for Aureo’s memorial outside the Dove Library, directly adjacent to Plaza Paseo Real, and the city is still finalizing the precise location at the library.
The inscription on the bench will read, “Tree and bench in memory of Aureo Duque, July 19, 1953 — May 9, 2022, Loved and remembered forever.” Hansen said the memorial will be unveiled sometime in January.
“It makes us feel very, very happy that people are still remembering him,” Sandra said. “What happened to him, I think, was one of the cruelest things that could have happened to anybody. He didn’t deserve it, and we’re just grateful that they want to do this memorial for him.”