Alex Teves treasured Marvel and DC comics with their Spider-Man and Batman icons, and he was at his best in high school when he wrote about the superhero genre in English class.
He revered the enduring themes of good versus evil, and he is remembered here, in the place where he grew into a man, as one of the good guys: a boy who inspired an "Alex Teves Day" at school, pursued a calling to heal both minds and bodies, and died at age 24 facing evil in the darkness of a crowded Colorado movie theater.
"If you want to describe Alex in one word, he was just good," says his father, Tom Teves. "He wasn't a standout in anything, but he cared about people."
It is the goodness of humanity that Teves wants the world to know and remember: the virtues of his son -- and the 11 others killed at a midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado.
That desire has taken shape as a crusade. In the midst of mourning his first born, Tom Teves has wrested purpose from his grief -- the Alex Teves Challenge, he calls it. He demands that the media stop naming and showing images of the gunmen in mass murders.
Publicity glorifies killers, he says, and the notoriety spurs others to commit the same barbarities just for attention.
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson. And now Aurora.
Alex Teves had just completed his master's degree in psychological counseling. His father says he would have condemned the practice of focusing on the murderers.
Remember the victims, the heroic acts, Tom Teves exhorts.
Let good triumph over evil.
'A zest for life'
Alex Teves died shielding his girlfriend from the rain of bullets. His last act was more than just heroism.
It attested to his nature to help humankind.
Fresh out of the University of Denver with his master's degree, he was readying to seek another degree, a bachelor's in physical therapy at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
He chose this long path because he wanted to heal the whole person, his family says.
Tom Teves is deeply satisfied that the oldest of the couple's three children, all sons, came to know himself so well.
"He told me one day, 'I'm not going to do what you do -- because it's business,'" says Teves, an executive for a corporate services firm.
Alex said he didn't have it in him to order people around. "And it was my proudest moment. He knew what he wanted to do," the father adds.
Alex's mother, Caren, recalls his ever-present smile and appetite for life.
"He loved food. He loved to travel. He loved to explore new things. He just had a zest for life. He just wanted to experience everything he could.
"I'm glad he did as much as he could in the time he had here."
He met his girlfriend in graduate school, and Alex planned to marry her once he finished his studies, the mother says.
In the elegantly designed Phoenix community of Ahwatukee, where the boulevards are desert-landscaped with saguaro cacti and palo verde trees, Alex was such an ordinary guy of irrepressible cheer that he was celebrated for it by his classmates at Desert Vista High School, a high-performing public school opened in 1996 that sends graduates to the Ivy League.
Every day, he wore a crisp, white T-shirt, blue jeans and loafers to school; he just wasn't into materialism and liked to think of the more important things, his mother said. By his senior year, his AP statistics classmates -- and then the entire class of 2006 -- decided to hold a day in his honor. Everyone came to school dressed like him.
And now, says his mother, friends and supporters of those slain in the movie theater massacre held a memorial service in Denver with an Alex Teves dress code, and friends in Hawaii told the family they were planning a similarly attired service.