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Army Pvt. Jhanner A. Tello, 29, Los Angeles; dies in Baghdad

The helicopter mechanic was on his second deployment to Iraq when he died of injuries suffered in a noncombat-related incident.

April 18, 2010|By Nicole Santa Cruz
  • Jhanner Tello had aspirations of going back to college for a degree in aviation mechanics and dreamed of eventually owning his own shop.
Jhanner Tello had aspirations of going back to college for a degree in aviation…

Jhanner Tello was a charmer, a sweet-talker and a man who loved to entertain, and when he was around, there was never a dull moment, those close to him say.

In July 2005, he took that energy and joined the Army, which soon posted him overseas.

Pvt. Jhanner A. Tello, 29, was on his second deployment to Iraq on Dec. 10 when he died in Baghdad of injuries suffered in a noncombat-related incident, according to the Department of Defense. Officials said his death was under investigation and declined to comment further.

A helicopter mechanic, Tello was assigned to the 3rd Aviation Support Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Family members said he had aspirations to go back to college for a degree in aviation mechanics and dreamed of eventually owning his own shop.

"He was a very happy man," said Lusin Mathews-Gezalyan, his ex-wife and the mother of his two children, Giovanny Tello-Gezalyan, 9, and Christian Tello-Gezalyan, 8.

Tello, who moved from Colombia to Miami as a teenager to live with his father, had been tenacious about trying to get Mathews-Gezalyan to go on a date with him, she recalled.

Whenever he received a paycheck, he would walk into the Florida bank where she worked and jokingly instruct her to put her phone number on the back of a bank deposit slip.

"He would flirt," she said. "He just wouldn't give up."

Finally, she agreed. The pair spent their first date talking on the beach.

"It was beautiful," said Mathews-Gezalyan, who now lives in Killeen, Texas. "Next thing we knew . . . the sun was up."

The two were married in December 1999 in a large Armenian wedding in Los Angeles. They lived in L.A. until September 2005, when the family moved to Ft. Hood.

Throughout his life, Tello enjoyed hosting barbecues, spending time with loved ones and collecting coins, mainly from Mexico, Canada and Armenia, his ex-wife said. He owned more than 100.

"One day this is going to be worth a million dollars," Mathews-Gezalyan said Tello would tell her. "Then you're going to love me more."

The couple divorced in 2008 but remained good friends, she said.

Tello loved being around his children and his younger sister, Yulissa, now 12.

"It was nice seeing him bond with his baby sister," said his cousin Ashley Tello, 21, of Sebring, Fla.

Tello remarried not long before his death. His wife, Jennifer Noel Tello, could not be reached for this article but in a comment posted under her name on The Times' California's War Dead database she called him her hero: "For the man I knew you were, for the strength I knew you had, for the will that no one could break and for love you showed me everyday we had together!"

Tello's life was not untroubled. Between his first and second deployments, he was convicted of misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving in separate incidents, according to the county clerk's office in Bell County, Texas.

But his relatives said Tello always took pride in his military service and his family. "He wanted to be there for his two boys," Ashley Tello said.

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