Dear friends leave legacies of light, joy

Pedro Gomez, Dee Dee and Noel Nash

Where to start? A deep breath. Or two.

A lifelong friend and colleague died on Super Bowl Sunday, unexpectedly, at age 58. Really, he was more of a brother.

There is nothing new to say on the topic of death; there won’t be anything profound and there won’t be any particular insight coming from this space. 

More than anything I’m saddened for his wife and family. I’m sad for all the people who knew Pedro Gomez and considered him a trusted friend. It’s hard to achieve that designation in life; the fact so many felt like he was their best friend speaks to his generous and kind spirit. Pedro was a connector. And if you were in Pedro’s circle, you automatically had credibility. “They couldn’t be too big of a jerk; Pedro likes them.”

I’m sad, too, that there will be people now who will never get to meet Pedro in person. 

I’ve met so many wonderful people in Creswell, Springfield and Cottage Grove. My context with them all is of this single place and time in the southern Willamette Valley. My context with Pedro was everywhere – from sporting events all over the country to the places our families have lived. Even when we were in northwest Alabama, where I was working at The TimesDaily in 2002. Pedro called one night during a harsh wet-and-snowy storm that blanketed the Southeastern U.S. He was in Nashville, he said, at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, about a two-hour drive from our home. “I’ve got an extra bed in the hotel room; come hang out for the weekend.” We got lost a few times late at night trying to navigate the sprawling Opryland Hotel complex.

Please take a moment to read the many testimonials online, check out his work at ESPN on YouTube, read his old sports columns from The Arizona Republic. I can’t begin to try and capture his career here, but it’s easy to find. A hard worker, he was a prolific storyteller and writer.

Pedro Gomez, Noel Nash, Tom Archdeacon, Santos Perez and Alain Poupart. Former Miami News staffers at the Miami High hall of fame induction ceremony for Leo Suarez, the paper’s former sports editor.

But this isn’t a column about sadness and grief. Just the opposite. Pedro was a powerful force for good in the world, beginning in his home and extending to a global audience. 

One of the most searing memories I have of us together was in 2013, the year he was the on-field reporter for the MLB All-Star Game and activities. Yeonis Céspedes won the Home Run Derby, and Pedro conducted a live, bilingual interview with the player in the moments immediately after the event. Watching in real time, it was amazing to witness such groundbreaking reporting. He had command of the situation, making the player feel at ease and interpreting for the viewing audience, seamlessly translating and switching between English and Spanish. He was at the top of his game. 

I saw him a few days later when he burst into my office, Kramer-like, in Bristol, Conn., grinning broadly. We hugged as old friends do, and got a little misty-eyed. I told him how meaningful the bilingual interview was, and how proud I was of his outstanding performance. We reminded each other of our humble beginnings – entry-level agate clerks formatting south Florida pari-mutuel results and entries and typing in the national weather temperatures – on the overnight shift at The Miami News. After chatting for a bit, he asked me to visit a website for Hispanic journalists. The website’s home page was plastered with screenshots of hate speech, attacking Pedro and Céspedes for the bilingual interview. It was the kind of anti-immigrant, violent speech we’ve become more accustomed to seeing these days. Pedro was an immigrant, a Cuban-American, proud of his heritage and new homeland, and this part of the fans’ reaction broke our hearts. 

Just last month Dee Dee and I were packing up the holiday decorations and the cards we received from family, friends and business associates. I don’t know about your home, but next to all of that stuff is an unopened box of cards that we never sent. We have so many great holiday cards that we’ve purchased over the decades. I’m not talking about a collection of “left-overs,” mind you, but pristine, unopened boxes of cards.

On the other hand, one of the most reliable events during the holiday season was receipt of the Gomez family photo postcard. The pictures came with a variety of backdrops, usually taken during a family vacation to places like Tahoe, New York City or San Francisco, as well as spots throughout their home state, Arizona.

A little math: He had to track down 11 different addresses in six different states going back to the 1980s to send that card to the Nash family each year.

In fact, the last text exchange on my phone with Pedro was on Sunday morning, Dec. 13. He wanted to double-check on our Oregon address. I joked that, during these tough economic times, he might need to send it to a random street corner by the time Christmas came around. Then I sent him the address to our apartment.

“Should I send one to both addresses? Haha” were his last words to me.

We did receive this year’s Gomez family card, featuring Pedro, beaming in the middle of a lineup with his wife Sandi and their adult children Rio, Dante and Sierra. 

I’ve been through this experience – losing a piece of yourself through the death of another – more than once before. In fact, I’ve grieved with Pedro over deep and painful losses, most notably a father-figure and mentor to us both, Leo Suarez. Leo died in his 30s; now Pedro at 58. The second loss amplifies the pain of the first.

Leo and Pedro were forces of nature, rays of light to others. Their legacies include the joy they infused in the people they touched. 

Rest easy, friends.

And good tidings to all. 

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.



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