Memorial Mass held for Fruita grad Thursday

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Thursday friends and family came together to pay their respects to a Fruita native killed in a helicopter crash earlier this month.

The toll of church bells reflects the somber mood at the Immaculate Heart of Marry, as friends, family and first responders gather to remember the life of Anthony Raymond Archuleta.

His son Brian Archuleta says, "His first love was farming and the second love would be helping people and when he got to that it was his favorite thing."

When Archuleta was in his 40s he decided to make a big life change, he pursued a career as an emergency medical technician, and eventually worked his way up to flight paramedic with Southwest Medevac in El Paso Texas.

Brian remembers his excitement. "Loved flying, loved all that, he was just giddy about it when he talked about it, he radiated with happiness," he says.

On Feb. 5 Archuleta was killed on the job when a training exercise went terribly wrong and the helicopter he was on crashed. Brian says, "He was just a great guy you know I miss him every day. Some days are harder than others."

Thursday fellow first responders paid tribute to one of their own. "I think law enforcement and firefighter, paramedic all are like a family," says his brother in-law and Deputy Sheriff Gary Nichols.

Nichols says it's a way for them to honor men like Archuleta who chose to put others first. "We respect each other and I think they want to honor Anthony's life and be here for the family," he says.

Inspired by his father, Brian decided to study nursing. He says, "I told him about it and he just was very excited about that, because he's another person in the medical field, so he would call me before the semester started, 'Do you have your books are you registered for classes.'" Brian says he would one day like to work in an emergency room.

For Brian it's one way to keep his dad's memory alive, but even today seems surreal as he remembers his dad's weekly phone calls. "The nine o'clock calls, that's one of the things we're going to miss the most," says Brian. The last comfort for the family is knowing Archuleta died doing something he loved.

Archuleta graduated from Fruita Monument High School in 1973. Memorial contributions can be made to Holy Family Catholic Church.

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