THE smile, always the smile. Dennis Lopez always had a smile.
The stories, always the stories. He told stories like a tour guide. To his three sons and dear wife, Sally, and they would sit and listen as he told them stories so rich they could picture and imagine in their minds what he was saying.
Dennis Lopez, 71, died suddenly and tragically Friday evening, making his way through the campus of Adams State after attending the high school basketball tournaments at Plachy Hall. Of course he was watching high school basketball, it’s what he did – support kids, all kids, all through their lives.
He loved education and being around the students that he taught and mentored. He was a longtime parishioner at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Alamosa, where he served faithfully as a lector and in the ministry, serving communion to the homebound, among other acts of faith.
In October of 2021 his alma mater, Adams State, honored him with the distinguished Billy Adams Award for his decades-long contributions to the San Luis Valley, his work as an educator and Valley historian. Originally from Capulin, he said, “Adams State was a logical choice” for him to attend college. He received bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, French, and secondary education along with minors in Chicano Studies and psychology in 1974 before finishing his Master of Arts in secondary education in 1978.
“I feel fortunate that I had some wonderful professors in each of the fields of study
Funeral services for Dennis Lopez will be Friday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Alamosa. A rosary will be said at 10:30 a.m., followed by the mass at 11 a.m. The mass will include the speech he gave when he accepted the Adams State Billy Adams Award last October.
Dennis Lopez touched many lives.
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that I pursued and these professors inoculated that knowledge which allowed me to be prepared as a teacher,” he said upon receiving the award.
His important work with the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Center and his narration of “Voices of the Valley” made him the San Luis Valley’s storyteller and helped propel the SdCNHC into the Valley’s cultural protector.
He showed up at Alamosa High School following his graduation from Adams State and began a 27-year teaching career in everything from Chicano Studies to Spanish. He loved languages.
As he went through the years he focused even more intently on helping others, particularly those from outside the Valley and those who live here, to understand the Spanish dialects of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Because his Valley homeland was important and special to him, and he wanted people to know and understand the historical and cultural significance of the place.
“I always end my talks by saying, ‘We have to understand and realize that we have a treasure, a treasure that exists nowhere else in the world,’” Lopez told The Denver Post in a 2020 interview. ‘”Speak to your children and teach them: Don’t let this jewel go to waste. Don’t let this treasure get lost.’”
The San Luis Valley lost a treasure in Dennis Lopez. He is survived by his wife, Sally, and sons, Jose, Juan Carlos, and Ricardo. He joins his parents, Corina and Alfredo Lopez, in death.
Photo courtesy Adams State University