ALENA MARIE ROSE GOMEZ
September 29, 1964 - February 17, 1989
It was as if she arrived from some distant planet. Alena captivated us with her generous smile, all-observing eyes, ears and mind. We were no longer a simple husband/wife team, but parents to a unique creature who widened our world to adventures beyond belief.
Just short of genius, Alena expanded her interests to include everything one human mind could contain. At age 2 we were fascinated with her artistic and musical talents: assembling jigsaw puzzles of world maps and playing the bass notes to popular songs on the little organ. Her drawing talents became obvious at this same time. She could draw from memory any animal without having to view it first. We knew we had our hands full and would have many challenges to keep pace with this bundle of surprises.
Alena was very spiritual and sensitive, while always wanting to appear tough and self-sufficient. There was no place on earth Alena didn't have a desire to explore.
Her first "solo" flight from Chicago to Mexico City at age 6 was to visit her daddy's family. Alena was fluent in Spanish and relished this initial "taste of freedom" that launched her passion for travel. Her only annoyance that summer was with her Grandma Rosa insisting on selecting her outfits each morning. Alena had always chosen her own clothes, being careful to coordinate colors and fabrics.
Tomas recalls: Alena had a wild imagination and adventuresome spirit, just like I had. We talked many times about my dreams as a young man, wanting to sail a big boat and travel around the globe. That's probably what motivated her to start on her own trips. She got interested in the 2nd World War stories, especially about Rommel and the desert. She also loved to watch those fantasy films with Harrison Ford, such as INDIANA JONES.
(Alena's 1976 Toyota Landcruiser at White Sands, NM in 1987)
We prayed nervously for our daughter's safety during all those dangerous ventures: skydiving, bicycling in the cold Maine snow, trekking through the Sahara Desert, or even on such tamer runs as the "Hotter than Hell 100" bike race in North Texas. She was a strong and graceful swimmer which was helpful during the Triathlon meets. Each journey drove her to explore even farther: England, France, Spain, Morocco, much of Africa, the Egyptian pyramids, Jerusalem at Christmas and a stiflingly hot summer in India.
As a young girl Alena begged and begged to have her own horse, but not being able to fulfill this wish she was thrilled to romp with the beautiful white horses on the Fashing Farm. She painted precise black stripes on the white mare, transforming her into a perfect Zebra for the town's parade.
(August 10, 1984)
Alena's participation in the dog world took many forms: 1st as a puppy sitter and socializer, then as a junior handler. She trained her Sheltie, Classic's Dandie Dyn-O-Mite to his C.D. and won many awards. When Alena acquired her driver's license she served for 7 years as the official chauffeur/hostess of the dog show judges for the Baytown Kennel Club. Her quick wit and charm delighted and entertained judges who came to Houston from across the nation to select the show's best specimens. In 1979, at age 15, this ambitious artist painted over 100 breed portraits on the onyx trophies. That was one memorable summer, she learned what hard work and deadlines really meant and she swore never to agree to do it again!
Alena's gifts and talents filled our lives with so many joys. Even though she sold most of her art work prior to her final journey, a few cherished pieces adorn our home today.
Alena was forever grateful to her parents and expressed it continuously throughout her life. No matter how far she traveled, she always remembered Mother's Day, Father's Day, our Birthdays and Christmas, and even our Anniversary. The devoted love letters Alena sent us confirmed our belief she was extraordinary. Sharing her brief life was a privileged blessing.
(Drawing dated Nov.4, 1981)
BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE by Alane L. Gomez
A tiny bundle came to us one day in '64.
A gift from God, we hoped and prayed to do our best and more.
To help her grow to her final colors of charm and grace and beauty
and the spirit to be free.
The black so black, the green and gold, and red and pink and yellow-
all brilliant. You would have to see this to believe.
She had a name here-it was Alena. In England they called her Louise,
and yet she never did belong and departure was always in sight.
Her wings would stretch and start to flutter, long before she said "Goodbye",
her dreams would carry her high and low, near and far, then up to the sky.
Along her journey she would find love and beauty in such strange places,
but soon would discover anger and hatred behind normal faces.
To India, to Spain, to Egypt, or wherever she would soar,
There always was this need to see just one place more.
Africa would be her quest, say just a year or two.
We warned her of the perils and said, Darling Alena, we love you".
"Dearest parents, I'm careful as can be,
Don't worry, no one can capture me, butterflies are free."
"But listen dear, do take heed:
some men are really bad, so full of greed."
It was 1988, one anxious December day.
Compass, maps, and car all packed -she's on her way.
The desert beckoned-the Sahara Hell.
How would a butterfly survive so well?
Her colors all aglow, she flew across the lands and seas.
Her charm, her grace and beauty and the spirit to be free.
A special man just then appeared in Tamanrasset in Algeria.
"My name is Angus, England is my home.
Hila, are you traveling alone?"
He sensed this fragile beauty needed more than desert air,
A partnership developed - respect, understanding and care.
A month together-oh what joy, but soon it was to end,
for in Burkina there they met what seemed to be a friend.
This man so strong, with eyes afire looking to find his treasure.
"The name is David, Agudu at your pleasure."
Never had he seen the likes of such a colorful sight,
Grace and charm and beauty all alone in flight.
Now Angus left this butterfly, back to fields and fruits.
How he longed to linger, but farmers have other pursuits.
"Hello," said David eagerly, "May I please help you?"
"Oh no, that's kind, I'm only passing through."
David thought and studied, on what next he should do.
Butterflies must have their freedom, oh yes, this he knew.
"Come on down to Tamale, it's just a little farther,
I'll show you heavenly places, the land of my rich father."
"He has such beautiful things there and butterflies are free.
"This butterfly was tempted now, but knew she'd better flee.
Just then the warning words returned, "some men are really bad,
so full of greed".
Was there time to get away? Her wings felt heavy and sore.
Would it be too late? Could she fly anymore?
"Oh please, David, she begged, it's time for me to go.
take all my earthly possessions, I know you want them so."
The net was choked around her, his hands came crashing down.
Her wings were torn and tattered, her colors dirty and brown.
"Please, oh please," she whimpered, "set me free, or kill me if you must".
And then and there, that's what he did, her tiny head he crushed.
No more grace and beauty, no more wings aflutter.
Not one more journey, never a word to utter.
But wait! For we know that's not how it's meant to be.(6-29-90)
Our little Hila soars through space, for butterflies are free.
Craft Painted Monarch by Alena
After hosting the judges for our kennel club at the l988 Astrohall show (a job she had held for 7 years) Alena left straight-away for England to prepare her Toyota Landcruiser (an old rusty rattletrap) for her African journey. It took her 4 months to ready this jalopy, rebuilding it to make it desert-worthy. She advertised for a travel companion and interviewed various prospects, but failed to find a suitable partner. We were worried, of course, but Alena was almost 24 years old and with her extensive travel experience and studies, we could only hope and pray this jaunt would not be perilous. We discussed often the prospects of danger and what she should do. She had always thought about the dangers long before we had even mentioned them, so she did not depart unprepared. Though, we do not know of a single friend of hers who didn't try to convince her NOT TO GO ALONE, which she tried to avoid, but would rather travel solo than with some "sex-maniac or idiot", as she said. So the time to leave had arrived and no worthy companion had been found. One cannot wait an eternity when one is traveling overseas, for the visas and travel permits cannot be easily obtained. She would caravan from town to town, so in effect, was not really traveling alone. She met many, many wonderful people.
Alena had this great ability, even as a little girl, of being able to communicate with adults on any subject. She never had a lot of friends her own age because she was such an "oddball" and she chose not to date because it interfered with her goals to travel and explore. Alena had many men friends, because she believed men were more interesting, but she would not allow them to "conquer" her, and this was a problem from time to time because she was a very pretty woman.
She met a wonderful British man in southern Algeria who agreed to travel with her for a month. He was quite the intelligent, handsome young man, ANY woman would have gone crazy over. But not Alena! She simply mentioned him in her last letter as the farmer she met who taught her quite a bit about farming. And that was true, but how she neglected to say he was a gorgeous 6' 2" blond, educated, compassionate, decent SINGLE Adonis, is beyond comprehension, UNLESS you knew Alena, and we did. She may even have felt that SOMEDAY he would be the right man for her, but AT THAT TIME she had to forego any temptations of the flesh because her ONE important pursuit was to conquer Africa. Angus Davidson was his name and he kept a detailed journal of his travels with Alena. Thank God he was willing to share them with us. But Angus had to return home to attend his farm. Before he departed, there in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (West Africa) he introduced Alena to a man from Ghana he had just met (and trusted) who would assist Alena in mapping her next route. Unfortunately that man, David Agudu, convinced Alena to head south to Ghana, where he proceeded to murder her, burn her body and most of her possessions, except her vehicle and her bank card.
It was a long and hideous nightmare. August '88 she left for England, December '88 she headed overland for Africa. February 17, l989 she was murdered. But we did not learn of this until her murderer, David Agudu, was arrested in September, l989 and confessed hours later. We were in a state of hysteria searching first for her, then for anyone who might have seen her. At first we could elicit no ones help. The U.S. state Dept would not even take an interest in the case until we had the news media aware of the case and then they began to take notice. It was a matter of constant phone calls to Washington, England, Ghana and anywhere else we thought we could put out the word. During all this turmoil and madness, Tomas managed to continue his day to day duties at Dupont. Alane did not cancel one obedience class or show. Every waking moment we were busy studying the mystery and calculating our next move. We sent hundreds of letters to missions in Africa, for at one time we didn't even know in which country to look for her.
Thanks to the cooperation and concentrated efforts of Richard Gonzalez at the embassy in Ghana, the Accra police, Interpol and the Secretary of State, James Baker the mystery was solved. Two other very important people who assisted in solving the "Where Is Alena Mystery" are Richard Gillett of England and Paula Johns of Minneapolis. "Dicky" not only put his life on the line by traveling through West Africa in search of our daugher, he kept us abreast of the latest reports. Paula personally photographed Alena the day she disappeared and provided us with critical information.
We are eternally greatful to these two selfless friends.
UPDATE (May, 2008)
We are thrilled to announce the marriage of Paula Johns to Greg Lee on May 24, 2008 in Minneapolis, MN. We send our best wishes for a long and happy union.
UPDATE (January, 2005)
Angus Davidson currently resides at his farm in Ledbury, England with his lovely wife Beata and daughters, Ariana and Finlay.
David Agudu (now 43) was convicted February l990 and sentenced to die by the firing squad. As far as we know, he is still in prison.
UPDATE (January, 2010)
On January 9, 2009 David Agudu was granted parol and was released from prison. Authorities and the President of Ghana recommended mercy be shown him. Currently he is a bible student at the Manna Mission Bible Institute where he is training to become a pastor in the Ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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