LOPEZ, Gilbert "Chacho"
"3rd of July, 38" is what our dad would answer whenever someone asked his birthday. It had a certain ring to it that made it sound special when we heard him say it. Gilbert "Chacho" Lopez was born at 610 W. Helen street right off Speedway and within earshot of the railroad line and the Southern Pacific train that carried his father, Teodoro Lopez, to work for close to 40 years. Nana Lopez was my dad's inspiration. She the mother of nine kids, who also worked the voting polls, served Holy Family Church, and was board member La Asociacion de Madres Y Esposas Mexicanas, a group dedicated to providing news to Tucson servicemen during World War II. As my Dad would often say, Nana also loved to go out to Tucson restaurants which my dad and other family members would gladly take her. My Dad loved to tell stories. Simple stories, but to all of us they created memories that we will cherish always. Like his first day of school at Davis Elementary. As my dad would tell us, he left to school with his older brother, George with tortilla in pocket and ready to explore. At some point the bell rang, my dad looked around and decided to go the other way. He ended up back at home where Nana asked him what he was doing there. "They won't miss me today, I'll go back tomorrow," my dad said. Our dad would reminisce about Tata Lopez asking Dad to take the "little wagon" to go pickup wood and other items that Tata would stash downtown or near the wash to bring home. Tata always had a job for my dad, years later during our weekend visits to see Nana and Tata, Tata would always greet my dad with "que bueno que venistes, tengo un trabajito para ti". No matter the task, Dad always did it willingly and without question. Dad spoke fondly of his times and the many friends from the neighborhood. Los Aguilares, the Bensons, his friends Cookie, Jimmy Romero, and the clubhouse gang. He often missed his best friend, Freddie Ballesteros who died unexpectedly when he was young. There was the dog named "Jalale Hay". There was the barbecue chicken from Dukes, his days at John Spring, and downtown Tucson during the 50s. Him and his friends walked everywhere during those days: To San Xavier mission, riding bikes down A mountain, to the "pompitas" near Evergreen Mortuary for a summer swim, Spring training to see Bob Feller and the Indians, and countless baseball games at Estevan park. My dad loved movies with "Shane" starring Alan Ladd being at the top of his list. He also spoke of the "Fighting Sullivan's" as being the all-time tearjerker. Back in the 70s, Chico and the Man and Sanford and Son were his TV shows on Friday night. The Christmas Story played in the background for all of our Christmas times together on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning as the tamales smoked in the roaster. At seventeen on July 21, 1955, my dad joined the Air Force where he got to see the world and create friendships that lasted a lifetime. He spent time in the Philippines, Amarillo, Texas and Edwards Air force base in California where he met Pancho Najera and Willie Cano from Texas, Richard Duarte from Tucson and Ralph Telles from California. He spoke of visits to Los Angeles, marching in parades through the dizzying heat of the Philippines, and eating some crazy dish called "baluts," which to this day has us all puzzled. Upon his return to Tucson in July 1959. He worked at the Gila Bend railroad hell for a while digging holes and laying track. He applied for work at the recently formed Tucson Air National Guard. During this time, he also fell in love with our wonderful mother, Myrna. They danced many a night and all night at various Tucson hotspots during that time to include Porfirio Diaz, Stardust Ballroom, they were married in November 1963 and made a home on the southside of Tucson. Dad made a great many friends and had wonderful times at the Air National Guard. Alonzo Alday, Albert Leyvas, Bob Bradbury, Jimmy "Jet" Bracamonte, David Quiroz, Bill Seelow, Al "Big Al" Aragon, Chico Moreno, John Salazar, John Palermo, Ron Smith, Dale Smith, Curtis Ousley, Andy Wolfel, Bill Barry, Manny Ferreira, Bill Cooper, George Carpenter, Joe Figueroa, Rudy Lucero, Marty Martinez, Melvin "Star" Estrella, George "Nufi" Carrillo, Raul "JR" Basurto, Freddy Alvarez, Sam Rico, Eddie Dominguez and Gilbert Valenzuela are just a few of the wonderful people he met at the ANG. He volunteered for the Jimmy Jet Breakfast, played on the 1970 ANG Softball Team that won in Cheyenne. He enjoyed jogging, bongo ball, playing "pelotitas' (raquetball), having a few beers at TAGRA, retiree breakfasts, having softball games at Mission Manor park after Saturday drill duty, pool parties and barbecues on the fourth of July at the old swimming pool. Our dad and mom both had unlimited energy and drive to get things done. My dad was never bored and he was constantly on the go. He always had a small pencil and notebook that he used to plan his next project. Mom and Dad trucked tons of topsoil from the Santa Cruz River to fill their yard. They planted grass, trees, rose bushes, built porches, laid pavers, enclosed the carport and built a fireplace masterpiece, installed a shrine of our blessed Mother Mary and this was all done in the first ten years of living at their home. Later, our uncle Oscar and his compadre Beto helped Dad build a garage with Tio Louis taking care of the electric wiring. Dad built the barbecue pit where we had many summer-night barbecues with mom roasting hatch chiles or using the comal to toast homemade tortillas so good that neither Estrellas nor Alejandros can ever top. To fuel the fireplace and barbecue, dad was always on a quest for firewood. As a family we spent many Saturday mornings cleaning up dead trees in the river and bringing home what seemed like cords and cords of logs. So many memories and so much to thank our parents for the home they created. Our dad loved being active. He was jogging in the early 70s before the craze kicked in. Even though we never became a McEnroe or a Chris Evert, Dad had us playing tennis for fun. "Do you want mustard with that" he would yell as he served the ball. Our sister remembers the "short" bike ride she and my Dad took from our home to our Nanas home (about 15 miles one way). We also remember the "hefty bag" outfit that dad used to wear when jogging so he could "get the water out." He was our dad, but also the neighborhood dad. He would pitch ball to kids playing baseball at Santa Clara school after completing his afternoon run. The kids would come knocking at our door to ask if Mr. Lopez could come out to play with them at the school grounds. Dad spoke of this funny sounding game called "bungo ball" that he played at lunchtime at the air national guard. Dad played softball during the week and he also played in the Sunday league dubbed the "Orphan league" by Dave Herrera. Barrio Hollywood, Tu Sabes were just a few of the team names that played at Oury Park, Murrietta, and Menlo Park. There were so many names of players that he played with: Piwa, Foko, Pacheco, the Valenzuela brothers, Dario, Eddie Moreno, Carlos Campuzano, Mickey Romero and so many others that loved the game of fast pitch softball and a cold beer after the game as a reward. Later on, Dave Herrera began a Sunday volleyball league that Dad would also be a part of. Winning was ok but what really mattered was the camaraderie and friendships that developed. Coaching baseball was another of my dad's favorite passions. He taught mini minor 7-8 year-old's bunting, turning double plays, signals, tagging up and they actually listened to Mr. Lopez. Dad still remembered the names of these kids fifty years later - Danny Corona, Frank Perez, John Gonzalez, and Frank Mendoza. He also went on to coach girls' softball and other teams at Mission Manor park During the late 80s and 90s, Dad coached ANG slow-pitch teams that enjoyed post game festivities just as much as the game itself. Every Monday afternoon, Mom would make Dad his "caldo with repollo and tomatoes". This had to be his secret weapon as he had so much energy. Dad always dressed nicely, and mom made sure of that. His work fatigues were always clean and starched, he wore guayaberas and sandals, chalecos in style, sweat suits, shirts with pockets, and new balance tennis shoes, UA t-shirts, turquoise jewelry in the 70s. We will always remember the sweet aroma of Tres Flores as he prepared for his day of work or another visit. There are so many small things we remember about our father that bring tears of joy to our eyes and gladness to our heart and soul. Dad's breakfast creations - Eggs with anything and everything in the fridge and his Cochitos with peanut butter combo. He loved his menudo. Over the past few years, the Saturday morning ritual was church followed by breakfast. He loved his coffee black, his menudo hot, and his restaurants like Micha's, Café Santa Rosa, Little Mexico, Rigos, Mosaic cafe and El Indio. He especially enjoyed his Saturday breakfast with family and friends, and we thank all of you who joined us for these visits. Dad loved to make his visits to see everyone. Growing up it was weekend trips to see Nana and Tata-no holiday required. He would stop by and pick up a Beto's burrito take it over and spend time with Jimmy Jet on Sundays. Wednesdays was a trip to see his sister, Lucy with his Villa grandkids. He would visit his brother, Tito yet another day. Our sister would take him to see his sister, Patsy. His brother, George would join him on visits to see their brother, Luis and his wife Gloria and other times visits to see Jimmy Romero in the Pascua. These bonds are what really brought happiness to our dad. Our Dad was always there for us. No matter the reason, Dad would be there for a ride to school, a school event, a sports game, graduations, communions, school plays and he never missed a birthday whether it was at Peter Piper, the park or at home. The grandkids always remember the stops at McDonalds or Hamburger stand. They remember Tata's shortcuts during his cruises through town. During retirement, Dad made his visits, he played racquetball at DM with Nufy and David, and he relaxed at the Valencia Library, his McDonald's coffee and newspaper at his "reserved" table near the front entrance. He would greet all who came into the library and the security guard Montell and librarian Mr. Gee would sit down and BS with him on a regular basis. Dad would read about World War II primarily, but he enjoyed biographies about Chicano war heroes as well. We made a trip to Texas listening to Mazz and Los Bukis and anything Tejano, to see his friend Pancho in Kingsville, Texas, traveled to Cloudcroft in New Mexico for a wedding at the haunted mansion, made a Grand Canyon trip and rode the Williams train, and visit (s) to Tombstone with the highlight according to him being the Tortilla soup in the saloon restaurant, watching Randy Johnson bean a bird at spring training game, UA softball and countless movies. Each trip recalls for us another memory we will treasure with our Dad. 2020 proved to be a difficult year for everyone and our Dad too gradually began to slow down. He fought through some infections and his mind was tiring. He enjoyed taking a ride through downtown and the old neighborhood with a stop for a Dairy queen custard cone as he would call it. On the last Monday night of March, he ate, gave us a big smile as we made him comfortable in his bed. He slept for three days and on Holy Thursday evening April 1, 2021 at 6:15 p.m. he went home to God and family that awaited him. We could go on and on about his presence in our lives and the true blessings that God has granted us. We enjoyed many happy times and created memories that will remain with us forever. We humbly pray with sincere faith and gratitude that our dad is now in heaven with our savior Jesus. He is survived by his loving family and friends that will miss him every day. If you look at the pictures posted on the website, you will see his zest for life, the twinkle in his eye and a smile that will endure forever. We will miss his expressions that will ring with us always. "Ya me voy" when he was off to racquetball or the library. "Por eso te digo" as he explained something, or "What's happening!" as he joyfully answered a phone call. Oh, how he loved "La Negra" or "El Cascabel" on a Saturday morning drive or a festive song only he would recognize called "Hasta El Cepillo". Con el favor de Dios, we look forward to being with you and seeing you again. Amen Arrangements by FUNERARIA DEL ANGEL, SOUTH LAWN.
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Published by Arizona Daily Star on May 2, 2021.