Alejandro Cantarero, known as Alex by those close to him, passed away last month. He is remembered fondly by friends and coworkers as a creative, funny and kind individual.
Cantarero worked at the Santa Monica Daily Press from 2002 to 2007, starting as a production assistant and working his way up to production manager. Ross Furukawa, the founder and publisher of SMDP, said that Cantarero was a fast learner who brought a lot of creativity to the paper.
“Alex was a talented designer, learning and becoming an expert at the Adobe suite of products without a formal education in graphic design,” said Furukawa. “He was extremely popular amongst his friends and had a very artistic take on the SMDP. His loss is a big loss to the SMDP family.”
During his time with SMDP, Cantarero helped redesign the print version of the paper and also led SMDP to becoming the first newspaper in the US to publish PDFs of print editions online.
He worked closely with other members of the SMDP team, including Carolyn Sackariason, a former staff writer.
“He loved SMDP, believed in what we were doing and was very loyal and trustworthy,” Sackariason said.
Sackariason said she also loved having conversations with him on topics beyond work. She described him as an “intelligent, deep thinker and philosopher” who was also incredibly kind and creative. She said he once helped her create CDs with photos as a Christmas gift for her mom. When she left the paper she said she knew it was in good hands with Cantarero.
Mike Tittinger also worked with Cantarero at SMDP and said they became friends right away.
“Working with him was like hanging out with a buddy,” he said. “We would just be joking around, writing funny headlines that we couldn’t send, making funny pictures that we couldn’t use – he was just a lot of fun to work with and he was like a dynamo in the newsroom. He was just a real creative, original force.”
Annie Ghio, another of his former co-workers and friends, echoed the same sentiments.
“He was a great worker and he also just made work that much more fun,” she said. “He brought an extra element of liveliness, humor and energy. He had a soulfulness to him and just shared his joy of life.”
She said they would regularly get lunch together. They frequented Wahoo’s Fish Tacos and she said they became determined to be named the restaurant’s “customer of the month.”
“Finally, one month, we made ‘customer of the month’ and we were just elated because we had been trying for so long,” she recalled. She said she has many good memories like that with him.
Ghio introduced Cantarero to another one of her friends, Theodora Holt, and the three of them would often hang out together and ride skateboards down Main Street.
“He was really fun, he was really generous,” Holt said. “He was just very creative and we were always trying to push him to do more. He was a little bit shy about his talents, I think, but he was always coming up with cool ideas.”
Cantarero grew up in Santa Monica and graduated from Santa Monica High School. Divina Sevilla grew up several blocks away from his house and knew him throughout school but said they got closer later on and dated for several years before she moved away for college.
“He was just this creative, exuberant guy who had a zest for life,” she said. “He was very generous, sweet and funny and extremely creative, always teaching himself how to do new things and he was very intentional with his time and with people.”
She said he once helped build her a bike and challenged her to try riding it everywhere instead of driving.
“He was super into environmentalism and cycling,” she said. “We did this whole thing where he was like ‘let’s just cycle everywhere.’ And we did. I didn’t need my car for a whole year and it was amazing.”
Sevilla said he was always kind and caring to those around him – strangers, friends and family – especially his mother, Ludivina Cantarero.
“He was very loving,” Ludivina said. “He would make my breakfast, he would bring it to me and help put on my tennis shoes and just do anything — he really did take care of me. From when he was a little boy he was always very sweet and would give me lots of hugs.”
Cantarero’s mother has a professional caregiver, Ramona Gonzalez, who was close to him as well.
“He had a good sense of humor, he was really funny,” she said. “He was really smart too, I had the best conversations with him. He really understood politics and history and could give you specific dates and all of that.”
His mother said that teachers used to tell her he could be anything he wanted because he was so smart. She said he was very good with computers and would always help other people with them.
Since his passing, she said many of his friends have called her and many neighbors have visited to share stories about Cantarero.
“He left a good, caring light in the hearts of everybody because he was truly, truly remarkable,” Gonzalez said.
“He was just a really, really beautiful person,” Sevilla added. “Probably one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met.”