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Oklahoma City first-grader killed in house fire is honored by friends with a memorial tree

Classmates of Roberto Avalos, 7, raised money to purchase a tree, which will be planted in a memorial garden outside of Coolidge Elementary School
BY HANNAH COVINGTON hcovington@opubco.com Modified: May 24, 2013 at 6:26 pm •  Published: May 24, 2013
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For a boy described as quiet and shy, 7-year-old Roberto Avalos boasted surprisingly eye-catching hairstyles that were a hit among his classmates and friends.

His style of choice: a Mohawk spray-painted green, his favorite color.

The color was featured during a ceremony in Roberto's memory Friday at Coolidge Elementary School. Administrators, family and classmates released 30 green balloons to honor the first-grader killed in a house fire last month. They also planted a tree as a memorial.

Before releasing the balloons, first-grade teacher Jordan Mills asked the students to tell the balloon what they would say to Roberto if he were there.

“I said that he was a nice friend, that I miss him and that I wished he was alive,” said Gabe Hunter, 7.

Gabe was one of Roberto's best friends. He remembered how much Roberto loved basketball and how they played together at recess.

“It was always fun whenever he was around,” Gabe said.

Roberto's mother, Noemi Lopez, said her athletic son also loved soccer and karate. He would have started football in June. He tried to pass on this love for sports to his baby brother, Manny, 2.

“He was trying to show Manny how to dribble,” Lopez said.

A protective older brother, Roberto told his mom that he wanted to pick up Manny outside his classroom when he started preschool next year.

Although Roberto was quiet around new people, Lopez said he wasn't so reserved at home, often filling the rooms with his music and cartoons.

“He was always the joy of the house,” Lopez said.

Roberto was home alone the night of April 28 when there was a fire at his house at 2535 SW 51. He was taken to the hospital where he died. Police said the house had been burglarized, and the fire was related to the burglary. Two people have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the case.

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