Jose Moreno, who is credited with helping hundreds through a drug and alcohol recovery program called Casa De Vida, passed away in the early morning hours of Oct. 19.
“He was my spiritual father,” said Jon Cesario of Ventura, house manager at Casa De Vida in Oxnard, which Moreno opened in 2005 along with his wife, Julie.
“Even though Jose was the director, he’d always say that this is God’s program — God kept this open . . . so he’s going to continue to keep it open,” Cesario said. “The people he has helped truly had a paradigm shift in their life and Jose was used by God as the instrument to make that happen.”
Moreno was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 16 due to internal bleeding, Cesario said.
“They brought him in, started running tests. They felt it was necessary to put him in an induced coma. . . . They put him on life support in hopes of his body to start healing,” he recalled.
“His organs started shutting down, so Wednesday night they called us all in,” Cesario continued. “They started dialysis . . . and we didn’t know what was going to happen but we started having hopes of him surviving.”
Around 10 p.m., “We were told he was stable, that he was responding to the dialysis. His wife said, ‘go home and come back in the morning.’ We all went home — then we all got the text around 3 a.m.”
Neptune Linares, who entered Casa De Vida in March to seek help with drug addiction, said Moreno’s death came as “a shock.”
“We didn’t expect his death to happen so quickly,” said Linares, who was at Moreno’s bedside before he passed away. “But we have to be strong and stay true to the principles we learned at Casa De Vida.”
Ricardo Amaya, who graduated from Casa De Vida on Nov. 3 after spending six months in the program for drug abuse, said when he first showed up, “I was broken and I was lost, and Jose saw a light in me that I couldn’t see.”
“He saw it in me and kept pushing me to move forward,” Amaya remembered. “And the main thing he taught me was about my family. He made me want my family, he made me love my family again — that’s the only thing that saved my marriage. Jose took me in and he showed me how to rise up from the ashes.”
In addition to his work at Casa De Vida, Moreno spearheaded numerous charitable causes involving the residents, including collecting and fixing bicycles for low-income children during the holiday season. He was also involved for many years with a medical camp in Oxnard, an annual event that provides free medical services to those in need.
The most recent medical camp took place two days after his death at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Oxnard, where Moreno was honored with a brief memorial service before the day’s activities began.
“We’re a ministry, a program, that drives on giving back to the community, a pattern that was set many years ago by Jose Moreno,” Cesario said during the service. “He was our dear loved brother and a great leader, and with that said, we lost him. Even though we lost him . . . we’re here today in remembrance of him and also to reflect [on] what he did, and that was to love the community, not just with words but with actions. We are going to follow that example.”
“He used to always say, ‘As long as God gets all the glory,’ and I believe if he was here today that would be the message,” Cesario added. “So we will smile with remembrance of our brother, Jose Moreno.”
“Moreno knew how to love mankind without making any judgment of where they came from,” Julie Moreno wrote in a Facebook post on Oct. 20. She noted the words her husband lived by: “Be of service, one to another.”
“He was a man of great faith and did his best to pass that faith to all those he encountered,” she wrote. “He worked tirelessly reaching out and helping people addicted to drugs and alcohol and you may ask why? It was simply because he cared and therefore helped rescue many lives.”
Moreno was also a great believer in community involvement, and took on so many projects, including alley clean ups, helping out with Toys for Tots and doing gardening for the elderly, she added.
“He also loved his family dearly. We, as a family, are devastated as his passing came on so suddenly,” Julie Moreno wrote. “Our Casa De Vida board, staff and I will continue moving forward with the program, because Jose left us with a great plan of action to follow that works.”
A memorial service for Moreno took place on Oct. 26 at Ventura Missionary Church, followed by his burial at Conejo Mountain Funeral Home in Camarillo.
Moreno is survived by four sons and four daughters, and several grandchildren, Julie Moreno said. Casa De Vida will continue to operate, she emphasized, because “we have to continue on.”
“He had not only a love for people, but a love for his community, and that there is hope if given an opportunity,” she said. “He did not know the complete love that so many people have for him — that didn’t matter to him as long as he loved God and honored God.”