Had he known what was waiting for him when he would have woke up on the morning of December 7, 2020, Aaron James Ezell wouldn’t have gone submissively. Never one to shy away from a worthy fight, he would have puffed his chest, tossed his hair in that badass way of his, and raged hard against the sneaky bastard of a heart attack that took him. Denied that opportunity, he fell quietly asleep outside Twin Cities Hospital, having told his beloved bride that he didn’t hurt anymore.

Friday, March 30, 1979, was a warm and bright day, made all the sunnier when Aaron took his first breath at Sierra Vista Hospital in San Louis Obispo. In the years that followed, his roots grew deep and entrenched him on the Central Coast. The hills surrounding his hometown of Paso Robles are known worldwide for their trend-bucking, rule-breaking, wild-hearted terroir. Zinfandel grows well in Paso’s rebel soil, and so did Aaron. Both born here and laid to rest here; he rarely wandered far from home.

Well-equipped with stock from a long line of underdogs, Aaron worked hard and worked long. Having owned his own landscaping business for several years, he developed more than a great tan; he gained a work ethic that would serve him well the rest of his abbreviated life. Trusted and relied upon by his loyal customers, he spent several years earning a respectable living mowing and trimming under the warm California sun. His love for greenery neither began nor ended with shrubbery. Vehemently opposed to wasting perfectly good weed, he saw fit to put his pruning talents to work elsewhere and went on to develop a thriving business that fed both his habit and wallet. No matter your stance on marijuana legalization, you had to admire his uncanny ability to earn a living doing what he loved. That passion eventually turned to an epicurean adventure when he partnered with the love of his life, establishing a restaurant where he tended bar. Locals loved to gather and linger over great food and wine, but also to admire Aaron’s signature GQ style. Rumors of his ability to shake a strong martini while also shaking a notable tail-feather are bound to become a local legend and will long outlive him.

Besides irreverently throwing around F-bombs, Aaron loved Laganitas, LaDonna’s infamous sirloin with port reduction served alongside whipped chive potatoes, and nights they spent together sleeping under the stars on their outdoor sofa. Identifying things that he felt negatively towards are harder, but among them, disloyalty ranks most high. Also, casting judgment on fellow humans. He mostly lived out his life philosophies without making a fuss. The unlawful COVID-related ordinances penned by Sacramento tyrants, though, he was duly vocal on. Ahem.

He leaves behind a loyal tribe of acquaintances, friends, and family, each with our own nouns for him. Husband. Uncle. Bartender. Nephew. Best Friend. Son. Neighbor. Brother. Hero. The loss of his life leaves a permanent and indelible scar on everyone.

Aaron’s daughter, Addison Marie, survives him. He leaves behind the woman with whom he worked side-by-side to build a dream, his beloved newlywed bride, LaDonna. The four family members who endured his adolescent and stereotypically-accurate blasting of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” will miss him dearly: His father, Dennis Ezell (and fiancé, Diane) who spent a small fortune on decks, wheels, and bearings during Aaron’s skateboarding years. His mother, Michelle (and husband, Tim) for whose safety and protection Aaron once initiated a midnight telephone chain that began in Arizona and ended at the Highland Ranch, Colorado, police dispatcher’s desk. (It should be noted here that an unfortunately-timed butt dial was the culprit, not nefarious action on anyone’s part). His favored of the two siblings (see also: the author of this obituary), elder sister, Darcie (and husband, Jeff). His younger brother, Lucas (and fiancé, Lindsey), who simultaneously existed as Aaron’s biggest rival and most loyal defender, it was a mutual predicament. In recent years, LaDonna’s extended family, including sisters Amanda, Monica, and Hannah, have become dearly-loved family by choice.

His grandparents, Artella Ezell (who preceded him in death), and David and Sandra Cooper, were all prominent figures in his childhood. Aaron was “funcle” to his surviving nieces, Torri, Kennedy, Cassidy, and Caitlyn, and nephews, Caleb and Jayce. If truly it takes a village, it’s fair to say that Aunt Sharon (who preceded him in death), Aunt Shirley, and Uncle Monte can all share blame for contributing to his lovable delinquency. Christmas Eves, Plaskett Creek campouts, and backyard barbecues were made memorable by the friendships and love of cousins, Robert, Tracy, Justin, Cade, and Jaime.

Current headlines are making a big deal out of some rare planetary alignment that, just a few weeks from now, will allow a “Christmas Star” to be visible for the first time in 800 years. People will set phone reminders and clamor to erect telescopes for viewing. It’ll probably be a sight for those who are into that sort of thing. But if Aaron’s short life taught us anything, it’s that the rarest, most cherished lights shine brightest in the moments we create with those we love. I know he’d be honored if, in his memory, you’d invest the time you have left in laughing often, living well, and burning bright. He’d be the first to drink to that.