LOPEZ, ABELINO "AL", JR. (30 August 1944—28 October 2014) was a career educator and Hispanic community leader who helped to found Esperanza, a mentoring and scholarship organization that became a pillar of the HISPANIC COMMUNITY of Northeast Ohio.
Through his teaching, counseling and mentoring, Lopez influenced the lives of thousands of youth before his death at the age of 70
"Oh my God, one of the greatest guys ever," Jose Feliciano, the president of the Hispanic Roundtable of Cleveland, told The PLAIN DEALER shortly after Lopez’s death. "He opened doors for all these kids. It's an enormous sense of loss for everybody."
Born in 1944 in Tyler, Texas, Lopez grew up in Lorain. After serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1962 to 1966, he returned to Lorain and focused on his education. Using the G.I. Bill, he began courses at Lorain County Community College. That led to a master's degree in counseling from Kent State University.
A Mexican-American, Lopez married into the Puerto Rican community after he met Alicia, his wife of 37 years. Also an educator, Alicia Lopez, PhD, was a long time administrator for Aurora schools. The couple raised their two children, son Tony and daughter Alana, in Broadview Heights.
Lopez worked for 32 years for CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE as a counselor and as an associate professor. At Tri C, he helped to establish the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. He also served on the board of the Spanish American Committee in Cleveland and volunteered his time and his skills to numerous community groups.
Most notably, in 1983 he was instrumental in the start of ESPERANZA which means “hope” in Spanish. The non-profit offered tutoring and mentoring to Hispanic teenagers and began raising scholarship money to help send them to college. Esperanza awarded its first modest scholarship in 1983. By 2020, it was awarding about one hundred college scholarships annually. The scholars are introduced to the community at a celebratory event called “Fiesta of Hope.”
Esperanza scholars include Victor Ruiz, who in 2020 was the executive director of Esperanza and a member of the Board of Trustees of Cuyahoga Community College. Ruiz described Lopez as an inspiration.
"I think his passion for education is unmatched," he told The Plain Dealer in 2014. "Not only did he have the passion, he did something about it."
Lopez is buried at Sunset Memorial Park in NORTH OLMSTED.
Robert L. Smith