Jose Luz Lopez — a lover of music, dance, and a man deeply devoted to his wife and daughter — died unexpectedly of a heart attack Tuesday, Aug. 17. He was 76.
Family and friends gathered last week to celebrate the life of Pepe, as he was fondly known to those who loved him, a simple man with a heart of gold. Lopez had once requested accordion music for his funeral, and when he was laid to rest, an accordionist and a guitarist played and sang the Mexican songs about the departed he loved so much: Una cruz de madera, Te vas angel mio, and Un dia a la vez.
Born in Los Herreras, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Lopez settled in the U.S. in his early 20s. He toiled as a migrant worker for years, until his only child, Nora, turned five. He and his wife, Lela, didn’t want their daughter to miss school, so Lopez got his first permanent job — at la cartonera, the International Paper Co. on the edge of town. Later, he worked as a truck driver for Milchem and then for South Texas Concrete, from which he eventually retired.
In 1996, Lopez became a naturalized U.S. citizen — a pledge of which he was deeply proud. He took his civic duties seriously and voted religiously. Lopez loved to fish, sing, and more recently, play bingo, a hobby he pursued with gusto, and perhaps as a replacement for what he loved most — dancing! Although he was happiest on the dance floor, he didn’t do it as often after 2000 when his leg was amputated due to complications from diabetes. Still, he didn’t let a prosthetic stop him: Just last month, he danced with his daughter, Nora, at a relative’s wedding.
Before he was laid to rest, the duo performed Mi Linda Esposa, My Beautiful Wife, a song he often dedicated to his wife. Lopez referred to Lela as el amor de su vida, the love of his life. He relished retelling his version of their courtship, often joking that Lela pursued him. One thing is certain: Their love was deep and their courtship short. Lopez hopped a bus from Washington state to Mexico upon learning that Lela was set to marry another man. He declared his love for her — during a dance. They eloped and married the next day. They were married 53 years.Lopez is survived by his wife Lela of Edinburg and his daughter, Nora, of San Antonio.
Jose is preceded in death by his parents; brothers, David Lopez, Sabas Lopez and sister, Ernestina Partida.