Hasta Luego Juan Antonio Sandoval, Jr

My great friend Juan left us right before his Jan. 7 birthday. He would have a real comment about the intro sentence, left us right.

Mourning in the darkness, I have yet to run out of many unhappy times. We became friends in 1967 and remained so. I commented to him right after he was forced to move to a place without stairs that I can’t remember when we weren’t friends. It was a long time.

“Somehow, we survived,” he said. Having no love for the government, he believed we would all be killed.

I’m still here, Juan, and I mourn losing you,

You were my buddy, confidante, and once in a while, target of irritation.

Our last phone call was right before the pandemic.

He was my linguist and helped me decipher comments that were made in Spanish, always reminding me that the dialect spoken here predates English.

Juan became a valued fixture at the UTEP Library, guiding thousands of students throughout the years as he helped them expand their minds, and more importantly to him, their souls and spirits. One of the best indications of the impact he had on the lives of the students is that former students would send their children to look him up when they went to the university to help shepherd them into adulthood.

He did that for my three sons, though it was mostly long distance

My youngest earned his masters degree in pure mathematics at the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces and developed a close friendship with him. When I called to give him the bad news, he began reminiscing. Stories from Eugene and a tour of filming locations for “Animal House,” unique restaurants and art galleries and always with his great sense of humor.

When my eldest moved to Las Cruces, he immediately got in touch with Juan. The day came that snow fell in El Paso and I got a phone call from Juan. “Do you know if Rich brought a snow shovel?” He and the two brothers were close.

I told him I didn’t think so. How much snow had fallen?

About a half inch.

I told him to sweep it off with a broom.

Eugene had confused his thoughts and temperate El Paso wasn’t helping.

That same year, temperatures dipped in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and he got busy helping people avoid freezing. Childhood memories awakened. One of 11 children raised in Lariata at Monte Vista, he knew how to survive.

He didn’t make it through this one, but the hereafter now has a singer, dancer and ethnic educator to enlighten the souls there.

Hasta luego, mi amigo. Life is, as you loved to sing, “an impossible dream”. 

He was a passionate patron of the arts, amassing what many call the most extensive and important collection of Hispanic art in the Southwest. His artistic legacy lives on at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, Texas, where he generously donated his entire collection where it is currently being exhibited. His true legacy lives on in the hearts of those who were fortunate to know him.

Juan’s ashes will be interred next to his parents in Monte Vista, Colorado.

Please visit the Juan Sandoval Memorial Facebook group page to share stories and pictures of Juan as we virtually celebrate his life. When it is safe to do so, probably this fall, the family will organize a memorial fiesta in El Paso where we will gather and laugh, cry, hug, dance, and sing in honor of this remarkable man who touched so many lives.

He would appreciate any donations in his name to the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin.