Beloved Valley educator passes away from COVID

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Posted at 9:41 PM, Dec 10, 2021

"It doesn't seem real. She just had so much, so much more to do," says Jessica Morel, Vanessa's cousin.

Jessica Morel says she will continue to honor her cousin, 42-year-old Vanessa Lopez Delgado. The Valley mother passed away from COVID-19 just days after being diagnosed.

"She said, 'It feels like I'm drowning; I cannot catch my breath,'" says Morel.

Vanessa was not only an inspiration to her family but, an inspiration to the community. She worked over the years as a dance instructor.

"Her first teaching job at Gilbert High, she made it a mission to start a dance club because they didn't have one at that time. So, she started 1101 dance team at Gilbert High School and wanted to make sure that there was a place for students who might not have access to formal dance classes," says Morel.

From Gilbert High to Seton Catholic Preparatory and Chandler-Gilbert Community College - her students are forever impacted.

Alli and Madison share Vanessa's choreography and dance skills as a way to keep their former instructor's legacy alive.

"She's just something special and I just can't believe that she's gone already. It saddens me that she's not here with us," says Madison Hisle, a former student.

Vanessa was even the reason Alli ended up switching her major from nursing to performance movement.

"Before I got to Chandler-Gilbert, I wasn't much of a dancer, I wouldn't call myself a dancer... but after I had taken classes with her and been on her company for three years, she made me the dancer that I am," says Alli De La Cruz.

One of Vanessa's daughters is already following in her footsteps in dance; the other playing the family's favorite sport: soccer.

"That's the hardest part, watching them and so, we promise to keep her memory alive," says Morel.

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