MAR VISTA ¬ó Friends and family of Lincoln Middle School student Maximillion ¬ìBaxter¬î Petrakos will gather Saturday at the Westside Vineyard Christian Fellowship in remembrance of the 13-year-old who was killed this month by an alleged drunk driver.
Maximillion, better known as Max by his classmates or Baxter by his church youth group, and his mother Mary Hively were standing on the right shoulder of the 60 Freeway by their disabled car at 12:40 a.m. on June 6 when they were struck by another car going 60 miles per hour.
Hively and her other son, Alexander Petrakos, who was sitting inside the broken down Toyota Corolla, were badly hurt in the wreck ¬ó Alexander Petrakos sustained fractures to the hips and legs and is in a wheelchair; Hively is still hospitalized and only recently moved out of the Intensive Care Unit.
Max Petrakos sustained fatal injuries as a result of the collision.
The car, which the California Highway Patrol reports was driven by Tina Marie Silva, 28, of Hacienda Heights, drove on.
Officers later arrested Silva, who faces charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.
Silva is currently in jail awaiting arraignment on July 23. Her bail is $1.2 million. She has a previous conviction for driving under the influence (although not above the legal maximum of .08 blood alcohol content) from 2009.
Willie Herath, Petrakos¬í youth pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship, heard the news of Petrakos¬í death while supervising an outing at the beach.
¬ìI got a phone call from his aunt, and I just started bawling,¬î Herath said.
Petrakos had joined the youth group months before the accident, but in his short time there he had a profound impact on the other middle school students in the group and on Herath.
Petrakos was not a believer when his aunt, Brenda Petrakos, first dropped him off at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and he approached the religious group with caution.
His uniform of dark clothing and fedora set him apart from not just the group but almost any subset of his peers, something those who came to know him would describe in one way: ¬ìThat¬ís Baxter.¬î
¬ìHe was fringe-y for a month, more listening than engaging,¬î Herath said.
Whatever he thought about the biblical and spiritual material at hand, Petrakos was thoughtful and respectful during the youth group¬ís discussions. In lighter moments another side of Petrakos came out.
Since the age of 7, Petrakos was a comedian and a writer. He penned his first television show between the ages of 7 and 9, and would frequently come to open mic nights to perform stand-up comedy routines, said Brenda Petrakos.
Some of his routines are immortalized on the video-sharing site YouTube, as is a video posted less than two weeks before he died in which he sings the song ¬ìHallelujah.¬î
¬ìHe was an outstanding person,¬î Brenda Petrakos said. ¬ìHe was shockingly creative.¬î
That energy and creativity shone at the Vineyard youth group events, where Petrakos was warmly embraced as the amusing, mature member that put people at ease.
¬ìHe was funny, joking. He would say something totally outrageous and then he would do it,¬î said Devin, a member of the youth group.
Nobody believed the young man was only in seventh grade, many mistaking him for an eighth grader or high school student.
Petrakos was reserved until a meeting five weeks before the car crash when he experienced what the group calls ¬ìthe epiphany.¬î
He jumped up and exclaimed, ¬ìI got it!¬î a moment Herath describes as ¬ìthe most joyful moment in my youth ministry.¬î
After that, Petrakos was still the nice guy he was before, but with a purpose, said another member of the group, Brian.
¬ìHe decided he was going to live every day that way,¬î Brian said.
And he did, said Drake, a middle school-aged girl in the group.
On Saturday, family, friends and community members are welcome to attend Petrakos¬í memorial service, to be held at 6 p.m. at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship at the corner of Centinela Avenue and Venice Boulevard.
Herath will give a eulogy, and the Lincoln Middle School Choir will perform. A presentation including video and photographs will be shown, and then the group will open up the mic to those who want to speak.
Brenda Petrakos hopes that those attending will remember his artistic works, and walk away with the feeling that he is still present through his art and the love he had for others.
¬ìHe still exists in his art and in his being,¬î Brenda Petrakos said. ¬ìIn the love that he wanted to share, he still exists. His family exists.¬î
And while the community celebrates the dead, they have also remembered the living.
Donations are coming in from the Santa Monica community and around the world to help defray the costs of the funeral, Brenda Petrakos said.
Support for the trust fund has been ¬ìoverwhelming,¬î but Brenda Petrakos still faces uncertain costs for healthcare for Alex Petrakos, who hasn¬ít been able to see a doctor since he was released from the hospital for insurance reasons, and Hively, who is still hospitalized, she said.
The consequences of that accident has devastated the Petrakos family, and Brenda Petrakos is enraged by the fact that someone let Silva get behind the wheel that night.
¬ìAny child being sacrificed is tragic. This particular situation could have been averted,¬î Brenda Petrakos said. ¬ìMy baby could have lived. He could have been a film director like he wanted to. He could have produced art that could have changed the lives of other people. Instead, [his] was cut short.¬î