There’s a touch of cruel irony in the fact that Henry Sanchez died of an apparent heart attack. The man, after all, was all heart.
Sanchez, a former mayor of Las Vegas as well as a legendary New Mexico coach, died last week at the too-young age of 74. He left behind family, friends — and a better world, thanks to his service to God and community.
His accomplishments were many — in sports, politics and life — but mostly it’s the man and his heartfelt love for others that people will remember. Just read a sampling of the words his friends and admirers have to say about him:
“From my point of view, Henry is really the epitome of decency,” said former city councilor Macario Gonzales, who was a colleague of Sanchez’s at City Hall as well as a friend. “I’ve never ... associated with anyone as decent as Henry, or as honest; honest to a fault. He was certainly a very compassionate person.”
Or this, from Highlands professor Ron Maestas, another longtime friend: “Henry was the finest individual I have ever known, as a coach, as a parent, as a grandparent. He had a granddaughter who was the love of his life.”
For Morris Madrid, who was city manager for a time while Sanchez was mayor, the man was “made up of nothing but good things, whether it was personal or sports or politics.”
Henry Sanchez was many things to many people. He was a dedicated family man — surely that’s where his heart grew strongest — but his reach exceeded blood relations. And his passions transcended the labels of mayor or coach, as was evidenced in his dedication to Love Thy Neighbor, a local program he was instrumental in creating as a way to help people facing dire circumstances.
When Sanchez ran for mayor the first time, in 2002, he said Las Vegas was a divided community. As mayor, we’re sad to say, his efforts to reunite the city fell short. He could never quite overpower the forces that divide us. But the memory of his best efforts can do us some good in that regard. After all, we can unite in our tribute to this man with the heart of gold, this servant of our city, this man of faith and dedication. His life represents the better side of our community. We can all be thankful that he walked among us.
Perhaps his heart attack wasn’t such a cruel irony. Maybe his big heart simply outgrew the earthly vessel that contained it. Maybe he had too much heart. If so, we’re not complaining, because even though his life ended too soon, at least we had him for a time. And what a heartfelt time it was.