On Tuesday, June 9, 2020, Gilbert Lopez passed away at the age of 87. Gilbert was born March 2, 1933 in Peoria, Arizona to Ramon and Delores Lopez. He attended Peoria Elementary and Peoria High School earning an athletic scholarship for football, baseball and basketball to NAU. In lieu of attending college, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He attended Cadet Training in Marana, Arizona and graduated from Williams Air Force Base, as a First Lieutenant. He flew with the United States Air Force for four years and flew the F-104 jet Starfighter, which he was extremely proud of. After his four-year enlistment, he went on to join the Air National Guard, based at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Gilbert served his country during the Vietnam War by flying cargo aircraft in and out of Southeast Asia in support of US forces on the ground. He retired with the Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel. Gilbert had the distinction of being one of very few men to ever bail out of a jet at an altitude of 24,000 feet after the engine of his T-33 jet blew up over Mt. Graham, Arizona during a training flight. Both Gilbert and his co-pilot survived freezing temperatures throughout the night before being rescued and reunited with their families the following day. In addition to flying in the reserves, he flew commercially for 30 years. He was also a flight instructor with Republic Airlines. Gilbert’s family was honored to have been able to make his final retirement flight with him at the controls in February 1993. He married, Arsenia Imperial, the love of his life on December 21, 1957. They were married for 62 years and had five children: Lisa Lopez, Samantha Lopez, Rebecca Beaird (Skip), Marcia Leyva (Vincent) and G. Michael Lopez. He was a brother to Carmen Brown and grandfather to eleven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Gilbert was preceded in death by his parents, Ramon and Delores Lopez, and sister, Amelia Powers. Gilbert was proud to serve his country and continued to support the military throughout his life. He was an advocate in the communities he lived in, serving on the Peoria School Board. He worked tirelessly to pass a school bond so students would not have to attend double sessions in elementary school. Thanks to his door-to-door efforts, the school bond was passed resulting in Ira A. Murphy Elementary, being built. He later served eight years on the City Council of Cave Creek and was Vice Mayor for a two year term. Gilbert also served on the Arizona Board of Aviation, Hall of Fame and he was a member of the American Legion. He was an active member of St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church. Gilbert was inducted into the Knights of Columbus where he attained the level of 4th Degree Sir Night. He was also a member of St. Vincent de Paul. Gilbert’s best role in life was husband, father and grandfather. He is deeply loved and will be dearly missed by his family. A Celebration of Life will be planned at a future time. Donations can be made in his name to Hospice of the Valley by calling (602)530-6992 or log on to hov.org to complete a form or to Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at https://alzfdn.org/support-us/donate/

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