Javi Arroyo was a real good man, “We’re going to miss him”

Tenderlion Grill fundraiser benefits Javi's family

Javier Arroyo left his mark in Kansas City. His family, friends and his employer are heartbroken by his passing. He had something very special about himself and people just loved him for who he was.


If you went to lunch at the Tenderloin Grill, you could be sure of two things – you’d eat an incredible meal, and you’d get a smile and friendly chatter with Javier “Javi” Arroyo.

Longtime customers, friends and family gathered on a cold winter day last weekend to honor Javier, known to his friends as ‘Javi,’ who died unexpectedly on Jan. 8 of this year at the age of 43.

The Tenderloin Grill, located on KC Westside neighborhood where Javi worked for four years managing the restaurant, hosted a Jan. 16 fundraiser to help pay for his medical expenses and funeral costs. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Rachel a son, Javier Arroyo Jr. and his moms, Ramona Arroyo and Anna Meng.

If the turnout at the fundraiser was any indication, Javi was beloved by customers. In fact, Maria Herrera, the Tenderloin Grill owner who organized the fundraiser, said the response was so robust that the restaurant ran out of food halfway through the day.

“This shows how the community supports us and how they support Javi,” Herrera said. “It was amazing how much we made and how many people came out. It was just huge.”

Dozens of friends, family and customers waited outside the restaurant in cold temperatures armed with face masks and heavy jackets that packed the restaurant’s interior. By mid-afternoon, after only being open for three and a half hours, the 40 pounds of hamburger sitting in the restaurant’s refrigerator was gone Herrera’s cash register, meanwhile, kept filling with money that far exceeded a customer’s bill for lunch.

“People were coming up and giving us $100 and their food was only $26,” Herrera recalled. “I stopped the line at one point because I knew we would run out. I had to tell 30 people waiting in the cold we were sold out, and one lady gave us $60, another gave us $20. Those people gave us a lot of money, and I had to turn them away because we had no more food. We even got money through the mail slot, another $260. We were already closed, so that was amazing.”

If you knew Javi, the way he touched others was readily apparent by the flood of donations coming in.

“Last year, in April, I put a post on the Tenderloin Grill’s Facebook page and wished Javi a happy birthday,” Herrera said. “He had almost 400 people say ‘happy birthday’ to him, and he was just amazed how many people said nice things to him.”

Herrera remembered Javi as an employee she could count on, someone she could trust with every facet of the restaurant’s operations.

“The Tenderloin Grill gave him such pride, and he really took care of me. I trusted him, I believed in him,” said Herrera, who added that she thought of him as a brother. “It was always such a joy to be here and see him.”

Javi’s mother, Ramona Arroyo, said that the son she and her then-partner adopted in 1989 brought joy to her life as well. And Herrera’s fundraiser showed her just how loved her son was in the community.

“I’m overwhelmed by all the people who have come out. I feel blessed that he touched a lot of lives,” Ramona said on the day of the fundraiser, her voice cracking with emotion. “He was good to people. He was friendly, he was courteous, and they all loved him. They tell me what a great guy he was.”

Ramona continued, “Maria Herrera is an angel sent by God. She has been so wonderful to my family, my son, his wife. I am truly indebted to them, and I thank God they came into Javi’s life when he needed it the most.”

Ramona’s cousin, Steve Rodriguez, said he wished he could have seen Javi in action at the restaurant.

“I always wanted to come see him work, and I wanted to do what I can to help the family,” he said at the fundraiser.

One customer, Tom Santillan, remembered Javi as simply a good person, one beloved by others.

"Javi was a real good man. We’re going to miss him,” he said.

Santillan said he will remember Javi’s good nature the most.

“He was always friendly, and he could make good tenderloins, too,” Santillan said, chuckling.

Ramona said she was amazed by the turnout at the Tenderloin Grill’s fundraiser, and that she was proud that she could be there, helping with crowd control and hearing stories about her son.

The day before the fundraiser, family and friends attended funeral services for Javi. A family member delivered the eulogy that Ramona herself had written for her son. In 1989, when Ramona worked as a police officer, she responded to a call requesting assistance for a young boy who only spoke Spanish. A dutiful officer who saw a boy who needed help, Ramona’s heart went out him, and she was so touched by this boy left alone in the world, that she welcomed him into her home and legally adopted him.

Theirs was a unique family for the time – a police officer and her partner, a son she had saved from a life of uncertainty after a 911 call. Ramona recalling, “In 1989, God put you in my life. I don’t know what you were running from and I don’t know what I was running to. But together we made it work. Our paths crossed and now I have memories that will forever remain in my heart,” Ramona wrote in her eulogy to her son. “They say that everyone has a purpose in life. Maybe my purpose was to rescue you and your purpose was to teach me unconditional love.”

“I just see all the love and work that the Herrera family has done, and I want people to remember my son as a good guy, and I have to be here for him. He would have been here for me,” she said. “I thank God for the time I had him.”