When he was nearing the end of his life, Crescent City resident Dean Cantwell decided that he wanted to use his life savings to help change someone's life for the better. Almost a year to the day after his death, Dean Cantwell did change someone's life.

Last Wednesday, June 4, Del Norte High School student

Margarita Rios sat with her fellow students awaiting the results of

their scholarship applications, and with it, information that often

determines if, how and where one goes to college. Much to her surprise,

Margarita was awarded the Dean Cantwell Memorial Scholarship, which is

managed by the Wild Rivers Community Foundation, the regional arm of

Humboldt Area Foundation serving Del Norte and Curry counties. The Dean

Cantwell Memorial Scholarship is a one-time, four-year award that offers

$25,000 per year for the first three years of college, with the fourth

year of the award being the payout of the remainder of the initial money

that established the fund.

"I was speechless when I heard my

name. It was so hard to believe because I never thought that I would be

the one to receive such an amazing opportunity," said Rios. "I can just

remember walking up and feeling like it was a blur. I wanted to cry, but

I was just so shocked."

"I'm sure Dean was smiling down on the

scholarship award ceremony," stated Tommy Sparrow, a dear friend of Dean

Cantwell who worked with his wife, Donna, and fellow Del Norte Sunrise

Rotary member Lise Hamilton to fulfill Cantwell's wishes to create the

scholarship fund.

Dean Cantwell grew up in Iowa and moved to

Crescent City in 1992 after retiring from a career as a contractor

building major subdivisions in the Monterey and Santa Cruz area. After

spending years working in relatively affluent communities as a laborer,

albeit a successful one, Dean developed a passion for helping young

people improve themselves through education. Dean began contributing

each year to Del Norte Sunrise Rotary's annual Third Grade Dictionary

Program, and through Rotary's annual award of scholarship monies to

deserving local high school students. As the years passed, Dean

developed a dream to create a four-year scholarship award to transform

the life of one extraordinary young person from Del Norte County. That

person is Margarita Rios, who will be studying nursing at Sonoma State

University this fall.

Although Margarita's mother did not attend

college, she encouraged her daughter's appreciation for education her

whole life: "'You better keep your grades up. I better see no C's on

that report card, and stay away from those boys!' If I had a dollar for

every time I heard this from my mom, I would have more than enough money

for college tuition," Rios said. "I am a first-generation college

student in my family. My parents didn't graduate from high school, but I

grew up knowing that I would go to college. If I could speak to Dean

Cantwell, I would thank him so much for this amazing opportunity. I

would tell him how he has truly changed my life and that I will prove to

him that I used the scholarship well and make him proud as if he were

still alive."

Establishing a memorial scholarship fund can often

be healing during the grieving process and has proved to have been a

rewarding experience for those working to honor Dean Cantwell's memory

and wishes.

"I think Tommy is so grateful that we have been able

to accomplish this memorial. Honoring Dean's wishes in this way means

the world to him," said Lise Hamilton, a local attorney and Rotarian who

assisted Sparrow in establishing the fund with Wild Rivers Community

Foundation. "In the last year, we went from coming to terms with Dean's

death to trying to make the scholarship happen to giving Margarita the

award last Wednesday night. It is the end of this process for us, but

the beginning of a whole new life for Margarita."

Hamilton added,

"For me, the process went very smoothly with Wild Rivers Community

Foundation, and we accomplished what we wanted to do. Dean wanted to

transform the life of one extraordinary individual. Margarita's life has

been changed for the better, and it felt good to have a small part in


Margarita Rios has this insight for anyone who has or is

considering creating a scholarship fund: "I would tell them that they

are changing a student's life, and that is such a huge thing. It means

so much to a student that it is hard to put a thank-you into words. They

are giving students opportunities that they never thought that they

would achieve. It's an amazing thing to want to give money and help

shape a person's life."

The Wild Rivers Community Foundation

(WRCF) focuses on building local philanthropy by connecting people like

Dean Cantwell to the cause that matters most to them. As the regional

arm of Humboldt Area Foundation, WRCF serves all of Del Norte and Curry

counties. A local community foundation, WRCF builds partnerships with

individuals, families, organizations and other foundations to benefit

charitable projects and programs in our region that meet a broad range

of community goals.

For information about establishing a fund or

applying for a scholarship with Wild Rivers Community Foundation,

contact Gina Zottola, program officer of donor and grantmaking services

at 465-1238 or