REFUGIO – One word might describe Ann Lopez’s character, and that is “stalwart”: loyal, reliable and hardworking.
She was stalwart in her private life, in her faith and her work for the county’s residents.
As county commissioner, Precinct 1, she was totally engaged in the goings-on in county government, always wanting to do the best for the residents of Refugio County.
Commissioners will tell you that just when they thought an issue was ready for a vote, Lopez would raise her hand and say, “Can I ask a question?”
Nine times out of 10, the issue would be approved, but that one time she stopped something that shouldn’t be approved was evidence she cared about the best for Refugio County.
Lopez, who turned 75 on Oct. 8, died Nov. 1 after suffering a heart attack in Lubbock.
“Everybody is taken back by her untimely passing,” said County Judge Bobby Blaschke.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday in St. Therese’s Catholic Church in Woodsboro.
“She was a good friend,” Blaschke said.
“She was a caring individual with a sweet personality. She also asked the hard questions,” Blaschke said.
In 2012, Lopez had an opponent in the county election. She ended up winning her commissioners position, defeating Gary Wright.
And she won her position again in 2016, also facing an opponent.
“She took good notes. Sometimes, she would call me on what I said. It was in a good way,” Blaschke said.
“She remembered people. And she had a strong Christian faith,” he added.
Both Blaschke and Lopez were Catholics, and attended the Red Mass together, a tradition begun in the 11th century when the Catholic Church recognized and celebrated judges, lawyers, governmental officials and those affiliated with justice.
Bishop William Michael Mulvey celebrated the Mass, and Lopez’s sister, who was Precinct 1 justice of the peace at the time, joined Lopez and Blaschke.
Lopez, in January 2013, also was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a Lady into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in a ceremony held in the Catholic Cathedral in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The order is charged with the task of keeping the Holy Land safe and accessible to Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as observing the principles of charity.
At the time, Lopez said, “I don’t feel worthy of this great honor. I had wonderful parents who were faithful to the church. My mother taught me how to kneel and pray every night. My sisters and I went to retreats ... Yet I doubted so much. I didn’t know what kind of a person I’d become if I stopped going to church. I was afraid if I quit going, I’d never go back.”
Instead, she was made a protector of the church.
“She was active in church, and she wanted the best for her constituents,” Blaschke said.
Blaschke noted that Lopez’s Woodsboro home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, and as a result she moved around a lot.
And she and Blaschke worked toward getting unmet needs of county residents.
A FEMA representative finally pulled her aside and said, “Go to Rockport. Refugio County needs a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) like Rockport’s.”
Always ready to investigate solutions, she traveled to Rockport.
“I paid Rockport a visit and came back enlightened. I modeled our VRC on Rockport’s, and it has helped draw attention to the county’s need for agencies with resources to help us recover,” she had said afterward.
The Refugio County Volunteer Reception Center continues to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.
And always on the lookout to help the county, she reported that Refugio County’s participation in the CC Regional Economic Development Council was a positive move.
“We are positioning ourselves to look for economic development,” she had said.
Lopez said the county’s desire to improve the airport was also met with interest.
“(A representative) from Corpus Christi International Airport wants to sit down and talk to us,” Lopez had said.
Each commissioner on the court also received certificates from the V.G. Young Institute of County Government for continuing education, including Lopez, Stanley Tuttle, Gary Bourland and Rodrigo Bernal.
Most recently, she helped a budding organization – Los Amigos de Nuestra Senora del Refugio, an organization with a goal to construct an interpretive Spanish mission and museum.
Los Amigos held its first festival at Mission River Park in September. The park was generally unused in Lopez’s precinct.
After the festival, she had said, “This could be a model for the park’s future events.”
In January, she was interviewed by the Official Publication of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas.
“While growing up, I learned about politics and business at my dad’s lumberyard, and I later practiced them at my mom’s bakery/restaurant. I loved Woodsboro High, and I enjoyed the mental challenges of Our Lady of the Lake University, Texas A&I University-Kingsville, and the University of Texas at Austin,” she had said in the interview.
She taught fifth grade, developed/taught a developmental reading program for Laredo College, was a research assistant in UT’s College of Education, and served as assistant to Commissioner Blandina “Bambi” Cardenas, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
“My doctorate helped me secure a position as dean of continuing education at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell when colleges and universities were first encouraged to develop economic development training programs for business and industry,” she said in the interview.
“I returned to Texas as director of community colleges at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and I then served as the dean of arts and sciences at Del Mar College where I helped develop Corpus Christi Independent School District’s first early college program, Collegiate High School,” she had added.
Lopez’s accolades go on and on.
She had said, “I love meeting and working with the people in the county, and I love working with the professionals I meet. It’s like being back in grad school, and I loved being a graduate student.”
Commissioner Gary Bourland noted that Ann Lopez will be missed.
“I will remember Ann as one who loved Refugio County,” Bourland said.
He pointed out that she volunteered for anything and everything that might mean helping Refugio County.
“She represented us in the Coastal Bend Council of Governments,” he said.
“What she did just can’t be explained – how much good she did,” he added.
Tim Delaney is the Refugio editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397, or at refugio@mySouTex.com.