A century of faith, memories, and service
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — As Moses Lopez’s Father’s Day family celebration approached, the father of five and grandfather and great-grandfather of 12 imparted wisdom to the younger generation.
“Go to church, follow the rules, get an education, and say three Rosaries a day like I do,” he said.
His wisdom is gleaned from many years of experience.
On July 14, the devout family man who served his country for more than two decades and served the Catholic community his entire life will celebrate his 100th birthday.
Lopez, who never smoked or drank, attributes his long life to “faith and family and working hard.”
The soon-to-be centenarian is a member since 1977 of St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, located conveniently near the assisted living facility where he currently lives.
“It’s my entire life. It’s my soul,” Lopez said of his Catholic faith.
Father Jack McKone, pastor of St. John, said of his “oldest active” parishioner, “He’s very faithful. He’s a great guy.”
Noting that 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Fort Worth, the pastor said, “Moses is twice as old as our diocese.” Fr. McKone blessed Lopez on his 99th birthday.
Lopez, one of seven siblings, was born in Nixon, a small town southeast of San Antonio, on July 14, 1919. The family later moved to Winnie, a small town near the Gulf of Mexico, where he grew up.
When his father died when he was 12, Lopez lived a hardscrabble life, taking whatever odd jobs he could do to help his mother make ends meet.
“I worked in the fields, picking cotton and breaking horses,” he said.
In 1938, Lopez found work in the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aircraft mechanic. He served in World War II and flew in 15 missions.
In 1947, the United States Air Force became a separate military service. Lopez continued his military career as part of the Air Force until 1962.
In 1948, he and other soldiers took a restocking trip to Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and he bought a painting from a street artist who was creating portraits of the Holy Family. He bought it and put it in his duffle bag.
“I have always kept that picture close to me,” Lopez said of the artwork of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
The master sergeant then entered the second phase of his long life, working in the General Services Administration until his retirement in 1985.
In 1952, while stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, he met and married Beatrice Soto.
Beatrice died in 2013, leaving five grandchildren ranging in age from 30 to 50 and seven great-grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 20.
Their five children live nearby: Emily Lopez of Euless; Helen Weissinger and husband Glenn of Hurst; Joe Lopez of North Richard Hills; Ray Lopez of North Richland Hills; and Lucy Griffin and husband Eric of North Richland Hills.
Lopez has been an active member of St. John since 1977, when the family moved to North Richland Hills. He has been awarded lifetime membership in the Knights of Columbus.
“I enjoy the service they provide to the parish and the community,” Lopez said of the Knights.
As a Knight, he helped with the flower garden for the statue of Mary. For many years, he mowed the church grounds weekly.
“I loved cooking at the Sunday morning breakfast and the fish fry during Lent,” Lopez said. “I loved to serve the food and talk to the people.”
Lopez’s presence has waned in recent years due to his diminished mobility.
“I’m too slow and the line gets too long,” Lopez said, adding that he still has a great time partaking as a customer and loves visiting with his Knight brothers.
A man of many interests, Lopez is a lifelong fisherman and still enjoys the sport he has loved since he could walk. At first fishing was a way to keep his family fed. In better times, it became a passion.
He tells family and friends the lake is where he goes to “just get away and relax.”
He enjoys the calmness of fishing and is a “catch-and-release” fisherman.
In 2013, he and grandson Nicholas Griffin were fishing when Lopez snagged a black bass.
“The fish was huge, and it was a battle landing it, but Nicholas finally got it in the net,” Lopez said. “The battery on the electronic scale was low so we had to guess at the weight — about 10 pounds.”
The fishermen measured their catch and it was a whopping 23 inches long, a fish story that was chronicled in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“You could put your fist in his mouth,” he said.
When told it might have a been a record fish but it couldn’t be verified because he let it go, Lopez joked, “I may have to go back out there and try and catch him again.”
Another all-American passion of Lopez is baseball. Playing with his brothers and friends since he was 5 years old, at age 12 he joined a local team that traveled to other towns to play.
The years passed, and he rekindled his love with baseball when he joined a senior citizen’s league where he played into his eighties.
He now enjoys watching his great-grandchildren’s league games.
Last year, it was his privilege to throw out the first pitch at the Richland Rebels High School baseball game. It was his great-grandson Jeffrey’s last regular-season game before graduating.
Although in a wheelchair, he got to the mound with Jeffrey pushing him.
“I got the ball over the plate,” Lopez said.
He is an avid fan of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys, watching and discussing their games.
“I would love to throw out the first pitch at a Rangers game,” he said of the pregame ceremonial honor.
Lopez has started a new chapter of his life. Six months ago, he moved from his North Richland Hills home to Brookdale Richland Hills, where daughter Emily Lopez said he “quickly became one of the popular residents.”
Their appreciation of the recent addition to their extended “family” was evident when Lopez gave a presentation there June 6 about his military memories on the 75th anniversary of the historic D-Day invasion of Europe by Allied forces.
“He attends most all the activities and loves talking with his meal companions,” the eldest daughter said after her father spoke at the assisted living facility to more than 100 people. “He feels like he is finally retired.”