Arizona city pays respects to retired firefighter who died of COVID-19

Dec 15, 2020, 4:45 AM | Updated: 3:10 pm

Retired Globe firefighter D.J. Lopez left behind five daughters when he died of COVID-19 on Dec. 10...

Retired Globe firefighter D.J. Lopez left behind five daughters when he died of COVID-19 on Dec. 10, 2020. (Courtesy Photo/Vanessa Zupancic)

(Courtesy Photo/Vanessa Zupancic)

PHOENIX – D.J. Lopez will be remembered as a family man who was born to serve others.

After a lost battle with COVID-19, his Arizona city ensured that the 51-year-old retired firefighter’s legacy was remembered.

Lopez was transported from a Phoenix hospital back home to Globe on Saturday with a line-of-duty death procession, with the whole town waiting to pay their respects.

Despite the heartbreak brought on by Lopez’s death, his family continues to smile and honor his larger-than-life personality.

“He would give the shirt off his back to anyone, and he made friends anywhere he went,” Vanessa Zupancic, one of Lopez’s five daughters, said as she described how her father lived to take care of others.

And those friends showed up for him following his death.

The Globe Fire Department arranged the procession from Valleywise Health Medical Center, where Lopez died Thursday, to Globe, about 90 miles east of Phoenix.

“Seeing the entire town stand still and honor my dad was amazing,” Zupancic said. “To see the magnitude of how many people knew my dad, loved my dad, and how many people he has affected was amazing.”

Lopez served over two decades on the Globe Fire Department before retiring as a captain in 2016.

After retirement, Lopez continued to serve others as he went to work in a local hospital on the San Carlos Reservation.

“That was his life,” Zupancic said.

Lopez helped install coronavirus protocols at the hospital and worked inside the COVID-19 unit until he contracted the virus Nov. 14.

On Thanksgiving Day, he took a turn for the worse and was flown to Valleywise Health by helicopter.

Two weeks later, his family said their final goodbyes to him on a video chat as he remained intubated.

“That is something I never want anyone to ever experience,” Zupancic said.

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Arizona city pays respects to retired firefighter who died of COVID-19