On Tuesday, Diaz will once again be delighting crowds. This time, through his presence on the Donate Life's entry in the 124th annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
It's also fitting, given the Ontario resident's dedication for the renowned parade, having volunteered for more than two decades in various capacities.
Diaz died Oct. 30, 2011 from heart complications following three brain surgeries in four days. His cornea, skin and other bones were donated and could help between 50 and 150 people battling breast and other types of cancer, as well as cardiac patients.
And with the Rose Parade an integral part of his life for the last 28 years, he was buried in the classic white suit and red tie that committee members wear during the annual event.
"He would have been so thrilled to see his face on that float, and knowing his corneas and tissues were donated, would have made him so happy," says Vicki Kopasz, a longtime friend of Diaz.
"He always gave."
The Donate Life Rose Parade Float has served as a memorial to organ and tissue donors and a platform for donor families, living donors and transplant recipients to inspire others. The donors are commemorated with a floragraph - a portraits of a deceased organ donor.
This year's entry "A Journey of the Heart," marks the 10th float for Donate Life. The Ontario resident will be among the 71 other floragraphs on the float.
Earlier this month Diaz' mother, Maria, was invited to decorate the portion of the float bearing his face. She in turn invited Kopasz to help her out.
Sitting in the Phoenix Decorations tent housed near the Rose Bowl, the duo worked for about eight hours using a combination of crushed dry flowers, seeds, beans to create his image.
Among them were other families whose loved one had also donated organs, as well as donor recipients.
"It was sad and neat at the same time," she said.
Hearing and sharing stories did help as part of the healing process, said Kopasz, an Upland resident.
Also helping the family ease in the loss of their son is that they have heard from one of his donor recipients whose has shared the impact it has had in his life, she said.
Diaz called Kopasz late one Sunday evening last October complaining of a headache. He had been playing volleyball at his church asked her if she could pick him up because his vision was blurry. Kopasz obliged. But when they got to his house, Kopasz said he collapsed and instead she opted to take him to the hospital.
The following day doctors informed him he had a brain tumor. He had surgery within days to remove it but then Diaz suffered a stroke and heart attack. In attempt to relieve the swelling in his brain, doctors remove a portion of one side of his skull. The following day the did the same thing, this time on the other side of his skull. But he never recovered. Diaz passed away within a week of his diagnosis, Kopasz said.
"The last thing he told doctors is that 'I'm good with whatever happens.' If it was his time to go, it was his time," she said.
The Ontario resident had had a health scare in 2008 when he had to have heart surgery. It was then that he wrote in his will his desire to donate his organs as well as a request to be buried in his Tournament of Roses uniform.
"Everybody knew Al. He called his Rose Parade friends his Rose Parade family," she said.
His volunteer work with the Rose Parade complemented Diaz' personality perfectly, she added. Diaz use to tell people he 'never knew a stranger' because he would befriend anyone he met. He had a boisterous voice and talked fast, she recalled.
She still recalls the time in 2008 when Diaz served on the music committee for the parade. Because he was the only Spanish speaker, they had asked him to host the band from Puerto Rico. Nervous that the band, who were staying at hotel near LAX, might not find their way to Pasadena in time for the parade, he asked Kopasz to drive him there at 3:30 a.m. so that he could ride on the bus with the band that morning, ensuring that got there.
In 2010, he worked on pre-parade duties working on the route the night before. That year the two went to Kopasz' first Rose Bowl game, it was also the first time she saw the floats in person.
Then there was last year, when he was on the transportation committee. For two days he went around installing new license plates on the iconic white Honda vans that are visible on the parade route.
"He just loved being around all the people. He made so many so friends, he was a real people person and he was excited all year long for it to come," Kopasz said.
Simply known as "Al" to those who knew him, Diaz moved to the U.S. from Cuba with his family when he was seven.
After receiving his BA in architecture from Cal Poly Pomona, he practiced with different firms and also worked with the San Bernardino County Planning Department for several years.
Kopasz said Diaz loved his children Austin and Alysse, and would do anything for him.
When he wasn't volunteering with the Rose Parade, he could be found in the kitchen cooking up big meals which he would then take out to Los Angeles and feed homeless people, Kopasz said.
But the family know, despite passing away at 53 years old, Diaz has left an important legacy - helping others, said his sister, Marta.
"We may miss Al, but we also know that he would want us to rejoice. He is healthy, happy and at peace in the presence of the Lord - and probably partying and entertaining everyone in heaven," she said.
Reach Liset via email, call her at 909-483-8556, or find her on Twitter @DBOntarioNow.