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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

In Memoriam: celebrating Gafford’s enduring impact

   JC Gafford was emblematic of Gabrielino High School’s spirit, championing self-expression and an unabashed, positive outlook on life. His passing left the Gabrielino community devastated; students and staff alike mourning the larger-than-life personality on campus who brought the theater arts to the limelight. 

   Serving as the drama and stagecraft teacher for the past ten years at Gabrielino, Gafford spearheaded the transformation of these electives to bring fully produced stage performances to campus every semester. With the arts fueling his passion, Gafford pushed for students to feel unafraid to express themselves on stage and connected to his students through his devotion and dedication. More than just focusing on theater, Gafford focused on his students.

   “I actually knew Gafford before taking drama with him – I was a junior officer of PAW Club in sophomore year and he was super chill,” senior Michelle Hua remarked with a laugh. “He was definitely one of the reasons why I chose drama as an elective. He made class feel comfortable, like a place I could destress in and feel like myself in. He made the class feel safe.” 

   Gafford was easily recognizable on campus with his towering height and steady gait, never a day without his joyful demeanor that made him a beacon for students to feel comfortable approaching. Even when faced with the tight deadlines of producing shows, Gafford never lost his temper. 

   “I first met JC working on ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, and meeting him is one of the reasons I decided to take up acting. After that, I started being an assistant director with JC,” said Dan Quach, junior. “Our biggest production was probably ‘I Hate Shakespeare’ on the big stage, and is tied for my favorite production with JC. He was my mentor and an amazing director.” 

   In recent years, Gafford not only directed the actors but handled stagecraft to help students interested in stage management have a place in production. The passion he poured into getting things running were evident in the shows that happened every semester. 

   “Without him, I would’ve never experienced managing a production nor even known about the drama program here at Gab,” said senior Justin Truong with a small smile. “I got to mess around with sound on the big stage with my supervisor he recruited, and it felt like a big family.”

Gafford was unafraid to tread new waters and encouraged students to approach different forms of drama with confidence. One of the last shows Gafford worked on at Gabrielino was the “Spitfire Grill” this past year.

“I was the lighting designer for ‘The Spitfire Grill’ and I will forever appreciate JC helping me believe that I could do it, because I was extremely nervous,” said Cailey Beckel, 12, with a hearty laugh. “JC created a family as we call the drama club and drama team, he made us become strong and know that we can do anything we put our  minds to. We will forever miss JC, but he will forever be in our hearts, especially when we’re on stage.”

   Apart from drama and stagecraft, Gafford also oversaw various credit recovery courses and taught English 2 and 3 this year. Outside of school, Gafford dedicated his time to the theater arts as a producer, director, and actor. Of his most recent works before his passing, Gafford starred in the play “Harold and Maude” at the Lonny Chapman Theater in Los Angeles through multiple shows in February through March this past year. 

   “I didn’t believe it at first, and I was just thinking, ‘no way, no way’ when I heard,” stated Truong. “JC was a friend, he treated everyone more than just people that had to get work done – he cared about getting to know us. The shows I worked on with him were really special.” 

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About the Contributors
Brian Ly
Brian Ly, Production Chief
Brian Ly is the Production Chief for the Tongva Times and is entering his fourth year with the paper. In his personal life, Brian has a keen interest in insects, collectible card games, books, and movies. He even aspires to raise his own "Gregor Samsas" when he finds the right environment. Interestingly, Brian initially joined the newspaper in his freshman year, mistaking it for a history class due to the presence of a textbook. Despite the unexpected start, he remained with the Tongva Times, drawn by the strong sense of community and the chance to interact with diverse individuals, from school athletes to the mayor of San Gabriel.
Bren Belmonte
Bren Belmonte, Staff Writer
Bren Belmonte is a Photographer and Staff Writer with three years of experience on our newspaper team. Outside of journalism, Bren enjoys cosplaying, photographing friends, reading manga, watching anime, and listening to music. Bren chose the journalism class in sophomore year after encouragement from family members in the industry. Since then, they've recognized it as a future passion and career interest.
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