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Phoenix’s legacy: El Paso mom looks to maintain her son’s memory & desire to give following his untimely death

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Norma and Bobby, circa 2001.
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Family photo
Norma and Bobby at Norma's wedding in 2016.
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Norma on her wedding day in 2016 with her husband, Jaime Barceleau (left) and her son, Bobby (right).
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Norma said Bobby enjoyed dressing as a Star Wars scout trooper to entertain kids at hospitals.
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On Dec. 14, 2019, Bobby graduated from UTEP with a bachelor's degree in art education.
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Bobby signed up for the Army to serve as a military police officer. "He was always looking for ways to give," said Norma.
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Norma said this was the last photo she took of her son. On Dec. 30, 2019, Bobby headed up the escalator at the El Paso airport. He was flying to Missouri, where he would participate in basic training.
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SPC Robert Andrew Phoenix was buried with full military honors at Ft. Bliss National Cemetery on Jan. 27, 2020.

EL PASO, Texas - A man whose life was cut short unexpectedly creates a legacy fitting of his name.

Robert Andrew Phoenix's mom, Norma Favela, opened up about her son's selflessness which is touching lives -- even after death.

Favela has been the El Paso District Clerk for nine years. But on the day she spoke to ABC-7, she was just Bobby's mom.

For 15 years it was just Norma and Bobby.

"He was just my everything. My entire world," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "The biggest blessing that I could have ever been given."

And she describes Bobby as a giving person.

"He was always sticking up for the stray animals out there. The people down on their luck," she added.

Bobby also enjoyed bringing joy to people through his love of the film franchise Star Wars. He was a part of a fan club in which the members would dress up and attend events.

"He had the authentic scout trooper costume," Norma said as she referred to pictures pasted onto a large photo collage of her son, propped up against the wall of her living room. "(He was) going to the children's hospitals, visiting the kids in the leukemia/cancer unit. This kid's just always trying to figure out how to do things for others."

His desire to give expanded when he decided to serve his country. Bobby signed up for the Army to serve with the military police. After graduating from UTEP on Dec. 14, 2019 with a bachelor's degree in art education, he left for basic training in Missouri on Dec. 30.

He was four weeks into his training when his heart gave out.

"In less than a month, my son went from having it all planned out, having it all working out, his hard work's paying off to, turns out, he had a congenital heart birth defect that we never knew he actually had," said Norma as she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

Doctors told Norma Bobby had two holes in his heart and there was nothing they could do.

Norma was at his side before he died.

"He knew I was there," she said. "He knew he wasn't alone."

In his final act of giving, Bobby donated his organs.

Norma showed ABC-7 a heart-wrenching video of nurses and doctors lining the hospital corridor as he was wheeled to the operating room in what is referred to as an "honor walk."

Bobby's kidneys and liver were donated to three people.

"I really do want to be able to meet these people, maybe touch them, because they have a part of my son in them," Norma said as she choked up, adding, "That definitely goes to how Bobby was, that generous, giving person in life as he was in death."

It's a fitting legacy for Bobby, who legally changed his last name to Phoenix two years ago. He intended the mythological bird that regenerates in its burning ashes to represent the ups and downs in his own life.

"He may have died, but yet the phoenix has risen from the ashes and is continuing to be a legacy and continuing to give back. His memory is still alive," Norma said. "So it's our job to find ways to give back to the community and have him continue to rise like the phoenix."

Bobby is living on through organ donation and monetary donations.

Friends and family are giving in his name to the local civic organization Community En Acción, of which Bobby's dad Jaime Barceleau is a part. They've already received $7,000 in donations.

Community En Acción sponsors a program geared toward at-risk students called the Young Achievers Forum. Bobby had served as a volunteer for the forum, which introduces hundreds of 6th graders in the region to college and vocational training.

The forum is Saturday, Feb. 22 at UTEP.

Military / News / Top Stories / Video

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.

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