‘Always with a smile’ – Rapozo remembered as a bright light

Beaming with a perpetual smile is the image friends and family will remember of Waimea resident John Botelho Rapozo IV.

Just 22 years old, Rapozo died after a head-on collision around 4:45 a.m. Sunday on Kaumuali‘i Highway near the Halfway Bridge

He leaves behind a 15-month-old son, Keola Ilai, and a fiancé, Veronica Llego, the baby’s mother. The couple planned to marry after purchasing a home.

Friends, family members and co-workers said Rapozo was a vibrant, gracious and warm man with a good heart — someone whose energy lit up the room.

“He was uplifting, always happy,” Llego said. “The kind of person that brightens up your day.”

Remembering also his love of crabbing, fixing up cars and doting on his baby boy, those who shared anecdotes about Rapozo lit up as well.

“When he would go fishing, he would just give whatever he caught to me or friends,” his mother, Carol Pimental, said.

He also enjoyed animals as pets, and had dogs and cats, she added.

“He wasn’t allowed to have any animals at his apartment, but he went to the Humane Society and got two cats and snuck them in.”

Sharlene Mata, who supervised Rapozo as an officer within the Transportation Security Administration at the Lihu‘e Airport, said he was “the type of employee that every employer would love to have.”

Rapozo had just been promoted to lead transportation security officer two weeks prior to passing away, however, the official paperwork did not go through until the day he died, she said. He had worked for the TSA for 10 months.

“He performed exceptionally well and did it always with a smile,” Mata said. Before working for TSA, Rapozo was a porter at the airport, but a friend who welcomed travelers with lei suggested he apply for the more prominent position.

“When he got hired (for TSA), he approached her with a big hug,” Mata said. “I know from that story, too, that he was happy to be a part of our organization.”

A middle child, Rapozo was not only giving toward his son and fiancé, but to his siblings and maternal grandmother, Pimental said.

“He would always provide for his family.”

As family, friends and fellow employees at TSA mourn the loss, Mata said the department had on-hand counselors yesterday.

“They’re working for anybody who wants to have support in taking us through this difficult time,” she said. “In the meantime, we’ve been trying to be in touch with the family and let them know we are available for any support they need from us. We want to express our deepest condolences to the family.”

Rapozo’s friends can visit with the family from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Borthwick Kaua‘i Mortuary and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kekaha Methodist Church. Services will begin there immediately afterward and burial will be at the Hanapepe Public Cemetery. Casual attire is suggested and arrangements are being handled by Borthwick Kaua‘i Mortuary.

• Amanda C. Gregg, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or agregg@kauaipubco.com.

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