Selvin Iscoa from Facing Homelessness

Selvin Iscoa, 1965—2015

Selvin Iscoa from Facing HomelessnessFrom Rex Holbein at Facing Homelessness, October 7, 2015:

Yesterday a very VERY beautiful friend to many in this community quietly passed away, his name is Selvin Iscoa. Sharing these words will bring a flow of tears to many friends.

For anyone who has spent time in the Fremont neighborhood, you would know the beating drum sound of Selvin, you would know the deep and infectious laughter of Selvin, you would feel the LOVE of this beautiful man because he shared it so very VERY easily.

Selvin moved up from El Salvador 24 years ago, he was just 50 when he passed away at the Nyer Urness House, where he had received housing May of 2013, housing finally after 10 years living homeless on the streets.

When I first met Selvin, he was playing his African drum outside of the laundromat in Fremont, next to Cafe Ladro, when he saw me walking towards him, he stopped, stood up, stretched out his arms wide, and yelled to me, “Welcome to my Living Room!”

Like with many of Selvin’s friends, we became instant buddies, every time we visited he would yell out in his deep beautiful voice, “Hey bu-ahhh-deeee, I luh-aaa-vvvvvv you!” It would make my whole body smile deeply.

Selvin lived to drum, you could see all of his face light up when he played, he told me once he remembers fondly when he was about six years old, living in El Salvador, his mom looking down from an upper window into the courtyard, smiling at him while he beat on an upside down metal bucket with two drum sticks he had made from tree branches, always sharing his drumming, sharing his joy.

I spoke with Adrienne Rice, Selivn’s case-manager at the Nyer Urness House, she said they are all deeply sad, saying, “Selvin was the brightest star in our building, his smile was pure joy and pure love, he will be remembered by all who were graced by his presence.” She will let us all know when the memorial will be.

Selvin my dear friend, thank you for always making me feel so welcome in your world, your bright beautiful light always filled those in your life with happiness. May you Rest in Peace.

Fremont neighborhood | Rex

Photo at left of Selvin Iscoa at around age 22; courtesy of Joseph Mutti. 

Up top photo courtesy of Rex Hohlbein.

Selvin’s Leaf is placed at Ballard Commons Park. If you have photos or memories of Selvin, please post a comment.


  • Joseph

    Woke up this morning remembering my old friend Selvin who I loved very much. On a whim I did an Internet search of his name and found this lovely tribute. As Rex indicates, Selvin was always upbeat in spite of the huge challenges that life circumstances had thrust in this path. I miss our occasional calls and the visits I was able to make before he finally found permanent shelter in the wonderful Nyer Urness House he spoke of so highly. I regret not being able to see his room and meet his community there before he died.

  • Joseph

    This is what I wrote in October 2015 in my friend’s memory:

    I knew Selvin from the time he entered the United States at the age of 22. He was escaping war and repression in Central America where as an orphan of 15 years old he was forced into the army where he had seen and done terrible things that always weighed on his mind.

    He taught me my first Spanish words and I taught him English. He loved the expression “crack the window open” laughing about the odd meaning for a long time. He was always upbeat, even at his lowest point. When we once had a fist fight due his drinking he screamed “I’ll kill you!” and I screamed back “Not if I kill you first!”. He loved that, and broke down laughing. End of fight.

    He was generous, sharing the little he had, even when he was very drunk and aggressive. Every time we spoke, he, who had no family, always asked after mine.

    He was the hardest worker I ever knew and was popular with my friends who needed day labor. He was very skilled with a chainsaw and splitting wood for the woodstove in the cabin we shared up in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with four Japanese and Salvadorean friends.

    It’s hard to take in the fact that he’s no longer with us and his drum is silenced. I always thought I would go first – even with Selvin’s health problems – and although I only saw him every couple of years and we only spoke every few weeks, I already miss him enormously as I’m sure all of you at Nyer Urness do too.

    So, farewell dear Selvin. You were much loved. A good soul. A kind heart. A ready, unforgettable smile for us all.

  • Aubrey

    I’d love to talk with you Joseph. Selvin was such a special person, it’s hard to find the right words to express how much he meant to me. I can tell he was also important in your life. I have a question for you, I wonder if you would call me? 206-370-1463

  • Joseph

    It’s been a little over five years since we lost Selvin and this beautiful memorial page enables me to once again mourn his passing. Selvin’s optimism would have been a good thing for us all to share in these hard times. I wish he was still drumming us through the day…

    • Joseph Mutti

      January 28th would have been Selvin’s 56th birthday. Six years after his death I still think of him most weeks. He had a profound effect on me and many things remind me of him. I miss his calls (when he wasn’t drunk…) and his upbeat nature. I sadly lost a recording of his last message to me, but I can nonetheless hear his voice as clear as a bell.

    • Joseph Mutti

      And so another year has passed since we lost Selvin. He would have been 58 on January 28th. Never forgotten. Always loved.

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