Former professor Henry Lopez dies of respiratory failure

Henry Powers Lopez, a loving husband, father, and teacher taught languages and humanities for 45 years at Pierce College, died Oct. 14, 2014, of respiratory failure in Northridge, CA. He was 86.

Lopez was born on Jan. 30, 1928, in Los Angeles, California to a teenage mother, Henrietta Romero, and was raised by his stepfather Daniel Powers at the start of the Great Depression.

In order to make some money during the depression Lopez would cut lawns, sell magazines from street corners, and deliver newspapers at 5 a.m.

At a young age, Lopez learned to read by using comics, and he would spend most of his time in public libraries.

Lopez was determined to rise above his poverty and get an education from a University. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Army at the end of World War II in 1946, he was only 18.

Lopez served for six years in the European Theater as an Army translator and accountant. Once he returned home he started to put his home life in order by providing for his daughter and his ill stepfather.

In 1952, while working graveyard shifts at a tire factory, Lopez enrolled at Los Angeles City College (LACC) at the age of 22. After two and a half years he transferred to University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) for two years, then transferred again to University of Southern California (USC) for his last two years. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree and a teaching credential.

Lopez got his first job at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, where he would teach French, German, Spanish, English as a Second Language (ESL), and History. After two years at Fremont, Lopez got his first evening assignment, teaching German at LACC, and soon after he was offered a full time job at Pierce College.

In 1966, Lopez started teaching at Pierce College and for 45 years he was an ESL, Humanities, Russian, Italian, French, German, Spanish professor. He was at Pierce College from 1966 to 1999 and part time from 2000 to 2011.

His fellow colleague, English professor Larry Krikorian remembered Lopez as being friendly.

“He was always very friendly and alert, if you saw him in the hallways he would greet you and he seemed real bright,” Krikorian said.

English professor Mary Thomsen described Lopez as energetic, strong and very honorable.

“He always had something to say,” Thomsen said.

Lopez loved and had a great passion for teaching ESL evening classes at Belmont, Virgil and Reseda Adult School which he did for 27 years.

Lopez took a one-year sabbatical to study Russian at USC while attending L.A. Trade Tech to get his contractor’s license. After USC, Lopez won an International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) teacher position at Moscow University in the summer of 1983.

While at Belmont, Lopez met the love of his life Leticia Gomez, a Cuban immigrant and soon after they got married in 1972. They were happily married for 42 years until his death. In 1974 his daughter Leticia was born and two years later he had another daughter, Rose.

Lopez loved to bring his daughters to class with him as he incorporated them with his class lectures. They would sit in the back of the class watching him teach and they would learn how to pick up skills that influenced them in their careers.

“He really loved what he was doing. You can tell from his lessons and the way he taught, he had a certain zest for teaching that I try to inject in my teaching, he taught me a lot,” daughter Leticia Lopez-Zabaleta said.

Lopez is survived by his wife, daughters (U.S. Army LTC Rose Keravuori; Dr. Leticia Lopez-Zabaleta, Liz Weiland), and grandchildren.

A private memorial service took place at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, on Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be sent in Henry’s name to the Salvation Army.