By ANALISA TROFIMUK
Homicide Watch Chicago
Maricela Huerta recalls her son, Christian Pichardo, serving his community from his grandparents’ garage in South Chicago as the community barber.
The 18-year-old often provided free haircuts to children in the neighborhood so he could practice while attending Success Barber School.
Pichardo impacted many children in the neighborhood through conversations held over those haircuts, according to Huerta, but a young man nicknamed “Ricky” was one of his favorite clients and closest friend.
Not many in the community treated Ricky as a normal kid due to his Down syndrome, but Pichardo spent time and joked around with him like he would with any other friend, Huerta said.
“He always had compassion for others,” Huerta said.
On May 23, 2011, Pichardo was found fatally shot outside his grandparents’ home, and while it has been six years since his death, family and friends sometimes still refer to him in present tense and ‘fill in the blanks with what he would do,’ keeping his compassionate spirit alive, according to Huerta.
“We always see things in a different light because of him,” Huerta said.
Pichardo lived with his mother in Oswego while attending Waubonsie Valley High School. Huerta recalled her son telling her he wanted to be more structured and disciplined, which led him to transfer to Lincoln’s Challenge Academy, a military school in Rantoul, Illinois.
“He was very proud of the day he graduated from military school,” Huerta said. Many of Pichardo’s family members were in attendance for his graduation, including his grandparents, mother and younger sister, Lauren Pichardo.
Lauren, 23, said her brother was one of her closest friends even through a four-year long prank war that started when she was 9.
“He would do things like remove the heads from my dolls and I would put honey in his shower gel,” she said. When they finally came to a truce, they admitted the awful things they did to prank one another.
“I knew it was bad when he said, ‘You don’t want to know what I did to your toothbrush,’ only to find out he basically cleaned the bathroom with it,” Lauren said.
Four months before Christian’s death, the siblings got into an argument, according to Lauren, that led to her not talking to him for two weeks, but even then, her brother was difficult to ignore. Lauren said she quickly forgave him during a walk to their favorite spot—a pond behind their mother’s apartment building.
“I remember him saying, ‘All we have is each other’ and I knew he was right,” she said.
There are many memorials of Pichardo, including a book of poems his grandfather, Gregorio Huerta, wrote, “Dreams and Memories,”
Huerta and one of Pichardo’s high school friends, Tracee Clough, created a Facebook page, “RIP Christian Pichardo” in his memory. The page is filled with pictures, memories, and poems in honor of Christian.
Clough remembers Pichardo being “the funny guy” and always trying to make others smile.
“We had math class together and when we were supposed to be doing work, he would just be cracking jokes and making everyone who sat in the back laugh,” Clough wrote.
Pichardo was also memorialized at his military school with a picture. Maricela Huerta shared in a Facebook post the tribute to her son painted in the room he lived in during his time at Lincoln’s Challenge Academy.
Christian was a jokester, friend, grandson, brother, and son. According to his mother, Maricela Huerta, he brought life into any room just by being himself.
“He made sunshine happen on a gloomy day,” she said.