Father of slain marine honors the legacy his son left behind
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
“I just want my son to be remembered,” said Joe Males, as he sat on his living room sofa, scrolling through photos and videos of his son, Nicholas “Nick” Males.
Saturday, June 18 of last year, the day before Father’s Day, was the last day Joe ever saw his son alive. It was Nick’s sister’s birthday, and they and their friends were out celebrating at the Rob Kelly’s After 5 Cocktail Lounge on Harvard Street in Hemet.
“They were out at [After 5] having dinner and drinks, and when they left, they walked into that parking lot area where they got attacked,” explained Joe. After 5 and Elite Bar and Lounge share a parking lot, and that is where the incident occurred. He admits that he and his family don’t even know the entire story due to all of the confusion and activity, other than what could be pieced together and corroborated by witnesses.
As Nick’s sister and friends were trying to walk through the parking lot, Nick stayed behind to wait for his cousin who was supposed to pick him up. But before he knew it, a loud brawl of several people erupted, and his sister and friends were caught right in the middle of it. That’s when Nick ran over to go and help, and in the midst of the confusion, Nick was stabbed to death. He was 28 years old.
The owner of Grooming & Colors, the pet grooming shop across the street, had made contact with the Males family shortly after Nick’s death, and told them of a video that was recorded on their personal phone cameras. However, upon review, the Males’ are not sure the footage can even be considered evidence. According to them, the footage shown was before the incident ever occurred.
“The video I saw from her shows just a few people, and somebody getting pulled out of an SUV, and my kids weren’t even in an SUV,” explained Males. “They were going through the parking lot to get to their car. It’s not part of what happened to my son.”
But Joe no longer dwells in negativity, or the many stories that were told that night. Instead, he’d rather remember the good times he and his son spent together. After several City Council meeting visits, pleading for information on his son’s murderer, he is ready to share the legacy his son left behind.
“He was a lovable kid. Everybody liked him,” Joe recalled. “He worked hard at everything he did to make it. This is a kid who had trouble learning, but he didn’t let that get in his way. He always went the extra mile to achieve what he wanted to. He got his associate degree, and went on to get his bachelor’s degree. He was a happy guy, always smiling. He was the kind of person that would make a crowd enjoying being together.”
The Males family moved to Hemet from Whittier 12 years ago. In 2007, when Nick turned 18, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I didn’t want him to go in, because I was in, and I know all the crap you go through being in the marines,” explained Joe, who spent three years as a Marine in the 1970s. Nick’s old certificates of good conduct, commendation, and honorable discharge were sprawled out in front of us. “That’s why he amazed me. He did things that I didn’t know he could do. Anything he tried, he accomplished. There was no holding him back.”
Nick spent most of his four-year duration in the Persian Gulf, where he worked as the passenger travel clerk at Command Element S-1, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“I don’t want him to be a grunt, whatever you do,” Joe initially told the recruiters when they first visited their home. “They worked with us, and the recruiters worked with us to make sure he wasn’t a grunt. He scored well, I guess, to be what he was.”
Nick attended ITT Technical Institute while serving, and earned his associate degree, and later his bachelor’s of science degree in 2014, just a year before being honorably discharged as a lance corporal in January 2015. He came back home and moved to La Mirada, where he settled down with his girlfriend, and had two daughters.
“He worked part-time at [CSM Bakery Solutions as an IT technician] and he was only there for like three months, and they loved him,” said Joe. Nick also worked at Joe’s company, JM Consulting nearly all of his life, growing up. When he came back home from the Persian Gulf, Joe handed the business over to him.
“He loved the business he was in, computers. He worked day and night, and he would make his customers happy. A lot of his clients went to the funeral,” said Joe. Nick worked both jobs simultaneously, with plans to get married, as another little one was on the way. She would be named Nicole, after her father, who passed away before she was born.
“He always had a smile on his face, I’ll tell ya,” said Joe, as he showed me a video of Nick singing along to a Spanish song. “He didn’t know a word of Spanish, but he pretended he did,” laughed Joe. “He was outspoken, and didn’t care — but in a nice way. He was honest. He was pure.”
Joe consistently described Nick’s likable personality and sense of humor, calling him a jokester. He and his wife, devout Christians like Nick, are confident they will see him again.
“He and I always hung out, more than any of my other sons,” explained Joe. Nick was the youngest of Joe’s four boys. “Nick just so happened to enjoy the things that I enjoyed. And that’s what kept us close and brought us together. He and I were best friends.”
The two of them frequently rode their Harley-Davidson motorcycles together, simply to cruise, to road trip, and even to ride in the Riverside Memorial Day Run.
“In December for his birthday, we had a big softball game over here by West Valley High School,” said Joe, as two orange cats scampered across the living room. “We had more than 100 people there. That’s what I’m trying to create — to have an annual thing for him, in celebration.”
Joe showed me the T-shirts he had made for the event, emblazoned with the Batman logo (Nick was a big Batman fan), above a collage of various photos of Nick. Around the collage read the Males’ family creed: “Without family, I’m nothing.”
Going forward, Joe wants to organize this softball competition as an annual event; inviting food trucks, vendors, family and friends to celebrate the life of his son, every December. He’s shown interest in utilizing the facilities at Valley-Wide Regional Park, which he has since contacted to pitch his idea, saying they were all for it.
“Now I’m just waiting on a phone call. I want people to come and enjoy, in honor and recognition of him.”
Nick’s mother stood nearby as Joe and I talked. She didn’t have much to say, and her explanation was simply that nothing was going to bring her son back, whom she clearly loved very much. She said that Nick “was a loving, caring person,” and that was good enough for me.
“You can’t bring anybody back,” Joe said. “I just want my son to be remembered, that’s all. He was a good man. He was special.”