YERMO • On a hot, dry summer day Marc Jackson reminded the crowd gathered at the baseball field at Silver Valley High School that the bits of moisture they felt were a good thing.
Tears began to well up for some in the crowd of about 50 who people stood on the field to dedicate it to Romona "Mona" Lopez on Monday afternoon.
"The tears you see are good tears," said Jackson, the Silver Valley Unified School District superintendent.
Those tears came for a woman who put kids first and did anything she could to help others, according to those who knew her. Lopez worked at Silver Valley for 29 years as a custodian. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007 and died at 70 years old in May 2008. The field, which previously didn't have a proper name, will now display the title Mona Lopez Memorial Field after Romona's husband Joe stepped toward home plate with Jackson and the two undraped the sign to dedicate the field.
"It's great I'll tell you," said Joe, whose eyes were among those tearing up. "She deserves everything she got."
Everyone from family, friends, coworkers, Silver Valley administrators and former students attended the dedication. The size of the event surprised even Lopez's son Albert. Albert said he expected a small ceremony with a handful of people but was happy to see so many who his mom had an affect on.
Lopez is believed to be just the second classified employee in the state of California to have a a facility named after her and the first to have a field named after her. Classified employees include custodians and food services, maintenance and transportation workers among other positions. Coincidentally, the other California facility named after a classified employee is the Charlie Hawkins Gymnasium at Silver Valley. Hawkins was a fellow custodian, and Lopez was apart of the push to get the building named after him in the early '90s.
Jackson kicked off the event with a speech about Lopez. Although he said he never met Lopez, Jackson commended her role within Silver Valley.
"Her name is going to live forever with us as part of our family," said Jackson after the speech. "That's a value structure that's good."
Debbie Ehresman, account technician for SVUSD and Linda Johnson, informations support specialist for SVUSD, followed with speeches highlighting Lopez's dedication to the children at Silver Valley.
"Kids come first," Ehresman said. "Don't forget, kids come first."
Ehresman said she hoped future Silver Valley students learn from and about Lopez.
"The only thing I can do is hope that when people ask about her or find out the way she was that they'll want to be more like her," Ehresman said. "They can aspire to be more like Mona and really think about kids."
After the ceremony, attendants shared their stories of Lopez and cake inside the SVUSD office. They talked about a woman who acted quickly when something needed to be done. She helped raise money for scholarships and other fundraisers; bought yearbooks, clothes and school supplies for students in need and listened when someone needed a friend.
"Mona was the one that came forward and said, 'This is how we are going to do it.' " Lorenzo Herrera, Silver Valley groundskeeper said. "Everybody followed along. She knew how it was going to get done. That's just how Mona was. She was a leader."
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