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David Ortiz, Fiesta leader and state Senate staffer, has died

SANTA FE, N.M. — David Ortiz, a former Santa Fe Fiesta Council president and assistant sergeant at arms for the New Mexico state Senate, died Thursday at the age of 64 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ortiz served as the president of the Fiesta Council from 2014-2015. Ray Sandoval, who worked with him closely as the event chairman for the burning of Zozobra, said Ortiz dedicated his life to upholding Santa Fe’s culture and traditions.

“It’s a huge loss for our community,” he said. “David was just a powerhouse and very instrumental with keeping our traditions alive.”

Sandoval described Ortiz as warm-hearted and funny as well as a blatantly honest person.

Being of Native American descent, Ortiz was candid about his struggles with how that side of his history fit in with traditions like the Fiesta’s Entrada pageant, according to Sandoval, but he still loved the old customs and strived to make relations between all groups better.

This year, Mayor Javier Gonzales declared July 22, Ortiz’s birthday, as David A. Ortiz Day because of his contributions to the city. In addition to working for the Senate and Fiesta Council, he also served as Gov. Jack Campbell’s personal chauffeur in the 1960s and more recently volunteered for organizations like The Neighborhood Housing Service and Youthworks. Her served as the assistant sergeant of arms at the Senate from 2005 to 2015, according to the Chief Clerk’s Office.

Even in his illness, Ortiz attended the 2017 Zozobra and Fiesta celebrations in early September, which he Sandoval called a testament to Ortiz’s “strength and will.” Santa Fe Fiesta announced his passing on Facebook, writing “The Santa Fe Fiesta, Inc. expresses its deepest condolences to the Ortiz family at this difficult time.”

Those who knew Ortiz should remember the lessons he taught everyone about reaching out to those struggling and being a helping hand, said City Councilor Signe Lindell.

She met him through his involvement with Fiesta when she became a councilor in 2014 and they were good friends ever since.

“He had a skill for forming community with everyone that he met,” said Lindell. “He had a friendliness. One of the great things David did was make everyone feel like they were (included).”

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons.