Richard Paul Gomez “Dickie” devoted husband, father and grandfather, educator extraordinaire, civil rights advocate, playful teaser, and mentor died on August 12, 2020.
Tilly and Ruben Gomez, dad’s parents taught him about serving others and doing your best. Grandpa Ruben’s shed was a long standing source of humor to the family, but whenever a handyman was needed, dad called Grandpa Ruben. They worked many hours together in remodeling the old house and trying to revive dead cars. The old house was Richard and Janice’s first home together and it was lovingly updated by dad over many years and was one of the last projects he completed. He enlisted the help of many of his children, grandchildren and siblings in the old house project, in part to get the work done and in part to teach them service and how to do your best.
Dad’s siblings, Carola, Andy, Mike, David, Jeanie, Daniel, and Tim were always a source of joy and comfort (and sometimes irritation) to him. In times of celebration, sorrow and need they do not hesitate to call on each other to rally to one another’s support. Dad and his siblings continued the close sibling relationships by getting together often to share a meal and catch up on each other's lives. Familia-dad always holds a place deep in his heart for those he considers family. He did not hesitate to embrace many individuals in need of a family to be counted as part of his.
As a missionary, dad served the people of Costa Rica and Guatemala and developed many long lasting relationships with the people of his mission and the companions he served with. The Solano family, Bob Sumner and John Wadsworth always made him smile as he recounted the experiences, friendship and love they shared.
Mom and dad met in the mission field. As her zone leader, Dad mistakenly tried to assign her the role of his “administrative assistant”. Mom quickly corrected him and soon after they returned home dad knew she was the one as she exclaimed “Elder Gomez!”
In the years that Janice required care, dad worked diligently to provide her with wonderful caregivers, but insisted that his face be the first she saw in the morning and the last she saw at night. Dad and mom loved to dance together and their jitterbug skills were a joy to behold.
Dad’s love of education stemmed from his love of knowing and understanding. As an avid reader like his dad, Richard became the first generation born in the United States to attend and graduate from college with a M.A in Educational Administration. This example has led his posterity to achieve many advanced educational degrees, vocational specialties and professional certifications.
Felicia (Vince), came to Richard and Janice first and will always think of dad as her first and greatest teacher. The proper mud technique for sheetrock; pruning trees and bushes; and a love of writing are only a few of the things dad taught her. He often told her how much she reminded him of her mother Janice and her Grandma Tilly which she considers a great compliment-and also a tremendous burden.
Monica came next as the first born of the twins. Dad was her greatest cheerleader and at times her greatest antagonist. They have a one-of-a-kind relationship. No matter what happened between them, she always knew he loved her and was proud of her. He taught her to be nice and accepting, to have a sense of humor, to face one’s fears and to be a strong Latina woman. All that she is and all that she loves is because of his and moms examples. Monica was able to be by dad’s side as he peacefully passed away and will always remember the love she felt at that time.
Mark (Cindy), joined the family just three minutes after Monica. Dad was Mark’s lifetime mentor, advisor, protector and friend. He helped Mark recover from a serious accident when he was a baby and again from a life changing accident he experienced with Monica on a mountain as teenagers in Mexico. He seeded Mark with a love of sports especially his beloved Utes. He taught Mark about being a loyal family leader who loves the Lord and who seeks to always use talents, blessings and resources in service of others.
Finally, Davie (Noel) was the baby, who learned how to work hard from completing projects with Dad such as pouring concrete and gardening. Dave and dad also shared a love of education in particular working with and on behalf of underrepresented and underprivileged youth and families.
As the young men's leader of the Lucero Ward, dad served the young men with love, understanding and high expectations. Whether it was climbing the clock tower of the meetinghouse to search for “missing” goods or painting warehouses to earn money for super activities like Disneyland, dad had a vision for what an Hispanic congregation and community could accomplish if they worked together.
Serving as the bishop of Lucero Ward was one of dad’s most challenging and joyful opportunities. He loved the members of the ward and worked long hours to make certain they were temporally and spiritually nourished. Bringing the ward together to move the annual “Fiesta de las Piñatas” from the cultural hall to Cottonwood highschool was a massive undertaking that many thought impossible. Knowing to include young and old, and with the help of good counselors and leaders, dad was able to make the vision a reality. He, with the help of Edgar Solano, created a Mexican folkloric dance troupe-The Lucero Folklorico that performed throughout the state of Utah. Dad encouraged his children, nieces and nephews to also learn to dance which eventually led to the formation of the Gomez Ballet Folklorico. From trekking through a blizzard on New Year’s Eve towards Montpelier, Idaho to local Hawaiin-themed dinners that get sky-jacked and end up “landing” in Mexico, no performance was too big or too small. Performances included a Mexican plate dinner, which we served, followed by dad acting as MC with the kids performing Veracruz and Jalisco dances. Dad as sound technician and MC loved to teach “los gringos” his signature GRITO which he asked them to demonstrate during “La Raspa”.
One of the youngest mission presidents called at age 39, Dad’s three year assignment as mission president of the Monterrey, Mexico mission was an opportunity to take all of us to the homeland of his family. Dad taught many missionaries to speak Spanish and English; teach and love the people of Monterrey; and understand that the core of the gospel is to love and serve one another. He also gave missionary haircuts when necessary. While there, dad made certain that we had the opportunity to attend good schools, experience the culture of Mexico and “smuggle” Thanksgiving dinner fixings for fifty missionaries from McAllen, Texas. Forever the team player, he relied on mom to administer the gamma globulin/ typhoid shots to the missionaries.
Dad called himself a “born advocate and an accidental activist”. As the Educational Equity Officer for the State Office of Education for over 20 years, dad was deeply committed to equity for students and teachers and celebrating cultural and racial diversity. While dad might be embarrassed for us to mention awards, he received the Cesar Chavez Peace Justice Award (2006), and the Humanitarian Award from Inclusive Center for Community and Justice (2009). However, no award could demonstrate his dedication to these ideals he held so high. His hope would be that his children and grandchildren would continue this important work.
As a REACH Teach the Trainer, dad, as an advocate of people of color and an example of a biracial/bicultural marriage, was able to share his beloved Hispanic culture and family history to assist educators in becoming more understanding and compassionate in their teaching. He taught them how to build relationships by using their head, hearts and hands for healing.
It was not all work for dad. He was an avid gardener, like Tilly. There weren’t many summer dinners that did not include a thick slice of tomato with a side of cucumber slices marinated in Italian dressing, all from his garden. Canning pears is a labor intensive process, but dad’s one little, well-cared for pear tree produces enough pears to can thirty, forty and even the record of fifty bottles of canned pears. This was a favorite fall ritual for him and Janice. He picked. She peeled. He bottled. Sharing tamales after our Christmas Tamalada tradition was one of dad’s favorite ways to share his cultural heritage with his friends and co-workers.
U of U basketball games were also a beloved activity. He stood in line to get season tickets when the “Special Events Center” was completed. He, Janice, Andy and Jeanette would smuggle in popcorn, drinks and the occasional burrito to enjoy while they watched the Utes! Dad was riding his surf jet on Bear Lake into his 70’s and never had any trouble finding the Gomez Family because all he had to look for was the only tent that remained standing in Bear Lake winds and the distinct green color!
We would like to thank those who assisted us in caring for dad in his final days. Caregivers from Home Instead “Nurse Nancy”, caregivers form Valeo Home Health and finally, our rock and sister from another mother, Kim Ventura. You were our healthcare heroes in this strange time that helped us make dad’s passing peaceful and without stress. We thank you.
If you would like to honor his memory in some way he would have loved for you to donate to a cause that supported his life’s mission. You may select the “PACE Scholarship (Partnerships for Accessing College Education) when prompted in the Direct My Gift to Field at the following link: https://secure2.convio.net/slcc/site/Donation2?idb=814392787&df_id=1060&mfc_pref=T&1060.donation=form1&idb=0