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A beloved man from Shafter who died while hiking a trail in the Mineral King Valley is being remembered for his military service, generosity to the community and poetry.
Army veteran Joe Lopez is being remembered for his bravery serving in Vietnam, but it’s his work, giving back tirelessly to young people that will forever be part the Shafter community.
"Education was really important to Joe. He was one of the most intelligent men that I knew so, it was important to him to give back to Shafter to honor his roots," said family member, Liz Lopez-Byrnes.
Lopez family fund awards students every year with a scholarship. It allows them the opportunity to learn and reach their goals.
"He saw education as a means to reach your dreams and I think he truly believes that each and every one of us was capable of it if we had a chance," said daughter, Crystal Lopez.
Lopez was the 5th of 10 children, a father and a caretaker for many around the community. He loved hiking and camping and spent much of his time enjoying nature.
"He was adventurous. Together as a matter of fact, we backpacked numerous times. I remember once we went to the coast and we ran a race at the coast and he's not a runner, but I am. I convinced him to run a race, let's go and we did it," said brother John Lopez.
Poetry is something Lopez took serious, often sharing his thoughts and words with all his loved ones.
"I'll read them again, and again. I'll remember them forever. He'll be in my heart, always," he said.
The family says they will continue working on the foundation and providing financial support to high school seniors.
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