Brotherly love

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer August 16, 2013 11:22 am

Leon “Primo” Higley works on a tattoo in his shop Thursday afternoon. Higley is currently raising money for travel expenses so he and his sister can visit their ailing brother in Mexico before he passes away. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Leon “Primo” Higley works on a tattoo in his shop Thursday afternoon. Higley is currently raising money for travel expenses so he and his sister can visit their ailing brother in Mexico before he passes away. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
 

Behind the ink of a local tattoo shop owner is a heart yearning for family. Leon “Primo” Higley, owner and artist at Redemption Tattoo, is raising money so he and his sister can visit their brother in Mexico before he passes away.

“I’ve been trying to get people to help and a lot of people have helped,” Higley said.

Higley’s brother, Jose Oscar Rosales III, was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and given 60 days to live. Higley said by the time Rosales went to the doctor, the cancer had spread throughout his body.

“We don’t go to the doctor. We’re stubborn Mexican men,” Higley said.

Rosales, 37, was discharged from the hospital Wednesday and told to enjoy his last days with family, but sold almost everything he had for treatment.

The tattoo artist said $600 had already come through the PayPal account he set up. About $400 went toward an apartment for Rosales to stay in during his last days. Most of the rest went to pay for Higley’s expedited passport.

“Now I’m trying to raise travel expenses,” Higley said. He hopes to ride his motorcycle down to Reno, Nev., where his sister is, and the two of them will drive from there to Nogales, which is just south of Tucson, Ariz.

Higley said he is the middle child of 11 siblings, but he only has one full brother — Rosales. And even though Higley was adopted when he was 3, he said he and Rosales always stayed in touch.

“He’s always been there for me,” Higley said. “It’s time for me to be there for him.”

It’s not easy to ask for money, Higley said, but his family has done as much as they can.

Higley himself has also been sick and in the hospital recently.

“But it’s not about me,” Higley is quick to say.

In a strange twist of fate, Redemption’s owner said it’s odd for such a tragic thing to occur at this point in his life. Higley has been clean 10 years and now has a family — that came with the aid of Rosales, who helped Higley pick his life up and “start on a new path.”

Now that path will include taking in Rosales’ 17-year-old daughter. His two younger daughters will be living with family in Baker City.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Higley said of gaining a daughter. “I want to do what I can.”

Despite the hurt, Higley said he feels privileged to live in a place like La Grande where people are willing to help out.

“I’d like to thank everyone for sure,” he said. “It’s community. Ever since I moved here everyone’s been receptive.”