Thursday, May 22, 2014
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To his friends he was J.C., a man who seemed shy but laughed easily. He didn't crave attention but giggled with endearing delight when his friends tried to tease him with off-color comments and silly innuendo. If you knew him, when you saw him, his hearty hand-shake and genuine grin were the pure proof a truly good man. He was a part of a fabric of the genial best of Key West, and his death left those who knew him in a state of baffled bereavement.

He was a south Floridian in general, a New Yorker on occasion, but a Key West character not by his own choice, but by those who recognized a true kindred son of the Conch Republic. He was a waiter and a room-service clerk at The Reach, and the delivery specialist, logistician and multi-skilled component of Love in Bloom, the floral provider/designer/arranger of events from the modest to the grand. He loved dogs and cats and fostered them, rescued them and cared for them for both friends and strangers alike.

He was a known presence while making deliveries in "Love in Boom's" ubiquitous "Flower Power" mini-vans splashed with flower decals. During Fantasy Fest in 2012, he was assigned to deliver a bridal bouquet at a certain time to a certain address. When J.C. arrived at The Porch, there was the not-so-blushing bride, mostly nude and in a rush to meet with her bridal body painter. J.C. handled it with aplomb and a giggle. It was Key West.

Juan Carlos Arguelles was born February 6, 1966, in Havana, Cuba. He went by the name John Charles, then short-handed it to J.C. Two years after he was born, his family migrated to Fort Lauderdale, then moved to Miami. He was graduated from Miami Senior High School in 1984. He worked as a parking valet, then delivered bread in Sanford. He spent two mysterious years in New York City and then found his final home in Key West. Delivering flowers.

In recent weeks, he confided in friends and co-workers about his crushing realization that his mother, Caledona, had developed Alzheimer's disease to the point where their weekend visits became an unbearable burden to his body and soul. The visits became less frequent. After he visited his mother last January, his mother no longer recognized her son. J.C. decided that visit would be his last.

J.C. also confessed to friends of his own disturbing his own memory lapses. His unreliable memory and his struggles over no longer visiting his mother drove him to depression. He feared following his mother's path into dementia. Early in March, one of his beloved animals -- a tubby ginger cat named Kitty -- had to be euthanized because of feline AIDS.

On March 26, Juan Carlos Arguelles took his own life. Only by his quiet, silent exit from the world did his friends fully appreciate the important part he played in their lives.

"J.C. was internally beautiful, truly honest the very definition of sweet," said Nulita Loder, the infamously demanding first owner of Love in Bloom Florist, who had hired J.C. "I wish I could reprimand him for leaving this world too soon, for cheating me out of ever seeing him again."

J.C. is survived by his mother, Caledona, and an older brother, Orlando. A memorial picnic will be held on May 24, 2014, from 1-5 p.m, at Ft. Zachary Taylor in Key West. Testimonials are welcome for a celebration of a life well-lived, rather than a mourning the death of a man who felt his only choice was to quietly fade away.