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Globe first responder dies of COVID-19; passed away Thursday at Valleywise hospital

Damien Jerome Lopez
Posted at 7:22 PM, Dec 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 00:16:26-05

GLOBE, AZ — After losing his battle to COVID-19, a former firefighter and first responder in Globe was given a special procession to bring his body back home.

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On Thursday, Damien Jerome Lopez, 51, known as D.J. to friends and family, passed away due to COVID-19. On Saturday, Lopez's body was transported from Phoenix to Globe via fire engine with firefighters from multiple counties joining the procession.

"We saw our entire town stand still to pay respects to my dad," said Vanessa Zupancic, one of Lopez's five daughters. "The magnitude of that is just mind blowing."

Lopez served as a first responder and firefighter for Globe for more than two decades. He retired in 2016 as a Captain.

After retirement, Lopez went to work as a healthcare educator where he helped install COVID-19 protocols for the local hospital on the San Carlos Reservation. Zupancic said he ran the COVID-19 ward up until his death.

"He needed to help people. My dad has always been like that," said Zupancic.

Globe's Mayor, Al Gameros, hired and worked with Lopez for more than 20 years.

"[DJ] was always pushed what he thought was right. That was just part of DJ," said Gameros. "“He wanted to share his knowledge with other members of our department and also the community."

Gameros said Lopez was the type of person who always had to get the first and last word in, speaking to his large personality, that was echoed by his daughter.

"If he would have met you for five minutes, he would have nicknamed you. That was his thing. Everyone had a nickname," said Zupancic. "He would know your life story and he would remember it. He would remember somebody he met 20 years ago and see them as if they talk every day.”

Lopez was first taken to the hospital on November 14. Weeks later, he was airlifted to Valleywise Hospital in Phoenix where he passed away.