Aloha and R.I.P., Keoni Jesus

Keoni Kamaka Jesus. Skinny, Hawaiian, funny, chill yet crazy, stylish, cool: this is the Keoni I remember. Just last July he was diagnosed with lymphoma, and on Nov. 3 it took his life.

When I was about 10, I always loved being with his older sisters Tiffany and Taffy Basque, who were 21 and 23. As a child, I was in awe at how pretty and grown-up and perfect they had seemed. I never got to know their brother so well, but anyone could see that he was the light of their lives.

He was born on July 21, 1992 in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1993 he moved in with his adopted mother Pat Santiago to Rocklin with her family, husband Joseph Basque and their daughters SueJen, Johnette, Taffy and Tiffany.

If there is one thing that everyone who knew Keoni could tell you, it is how he had a passion for dance.

“Since he was little, Keoni had always loved hip hop dancing. But when he was in middle school I made him join hula, and he hated it at first. Now we are all a family,” Santiago said at Keoni’s memorial service Nov. 15, at Adventure Church in Roseville.

Other things he loved were music, video games, and of course being with family and friends. Many people who were in Keoni’s life — family or friend — described him as being “the light of a room,” with his positive energy and humor.

“When I was in seventh grade, Keoni was with some of my friends from Rocklin High. I had blonde hair at the time. He saw me and he said, ‘Why does that Asian have blonde hair?’ That was the first thing he said to me and ever since then we’ve been friends,” Tisha Degamo said.

Degamo explains that although she knew Keoni, she was better friends with his girlfriend Stephanie Nguyen, a senior at Rocklin High. They had been dating for almost two years, and their two-year anniversary was just days after his passing away. At Keoni’s memorial service, Stephanie joined Tiffany and Pat as they spoke about all of their best memories with him. Around five hundred family members and friends were there to celebrate Keoni’s life. It was a time for the people who were close to him to value the memories they had together, and for the people who may not have known him to learn about his impact on so many people’s lives.