Updated: November 15, 2020 08:44 AM
Created: November 14, 2020 10:16 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Española Valley community is grieving after the loss of one of their own to COVID-19.
Dennis Salazar was a beloved mentor, educator, veteran and owner of the Española staple Saints & Sinners.
“He always kind of ran it with an iron hand. He was a little guy. He was only like 140, 5'4”. He was short, but he stood tall,” said Ken Salazar, Dennis’ son.
Salazar was involved in just about everything—from the military, having a role at the local community college, and helping establish local cable TV in Española.
At age 85, Salazar had no intention of taking it easy.
“He never wanted to give it up. He always wanted to just do what he'd been doing for the longest time. He always said when ever he retired, that's when he'd die. But COVID had other ideas, I guess,” Ken said.
Ken is one of Dennis’ two children. He said his father fell ill about three weeks ago and found out he had coronavirus while in an Española hospital. Salazar was put on a ventilator three days later.
After battling the virus for more than a week, Ken said they had to say goodbye.
“He was such a beautiful guy,” he said. “People would come in, and he would make them the center of his focus. So, so many people called him their second father. So many people loved him for his story and the fact that he had all these connections. Our family has been in this valley for hundreds of years.”
Ken said he has no doubt that his father will be remembered.
Salazar’s nephews shared their thoughts on their uncle’s death.
“Uncle Dennis had such a distinct energy. Community builder, educator, ability to engage you in a deep conversation at the drop of a hat. This man survived cancer, armed robbers, and even a truck that crashed into a bar one year. He will be greatly missed as he had such a positive impact on the community [and] anyone that had the opportunity to cross paths with him.”
Ken said that’s exactly how he wants his father to be remembered—as a man who cared for everyone, especially the community he called home.
“This is where we've been from generations. No need to leave here. We have the means to support ourselves. We have the land, we have the people, our hearts are here,” he said.
Ken said they are not able to have any type of service for his father right now due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Ken said his sister is still in the hospital battling the virus.
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