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In Memoriam: We bid farewell to so many icons of their sports in NM

As if 2020 wasn’t already grim enough, sad enough, a stunning number of contributors to New Mexico sports were lost this year.

It wasn’t really so much about COVID-19; only a few of those who died were victims of the virus. It was just, well, 2020.

Here’s our list, hoping there are no omissions (though, likely, there are, and apologies for those):

LUIS ALBERTO MENDEZ: An Oñate football player, Mendez died in a car crash in Las Cruces on Feb. 8. He was 18.

BUDDY FUNCK: The Lobos’ starting quarterback in 1983-84 and a Denver Broncos draft choice in ’85, Funck died in Denton, Texas on Feb. 26. He was 56.

WOODY WIDENHOFER: A longtime Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach, Widenhofer was New Mexico State’s defensive coordinator under Hal Mumme from 2005-07. He died on March 22 in Colorado Springs at age 77.

DON McGUIRE: A Sandia graduate, McGuire was UNM’s sports information director in the mid-70s before going on to a sterling career as a television sports producer. He died in Little Elm, Texas on March 19 at age 70.

CHARLIE HARRISON: After the firing of Norm Ellenberger amidst the Lobogate scandal in 1979, Harrison, an Ellenberger assistant, dutifully stepped in for the ’79-80 season. He died in North Carolina on April 13 at age 70.

MARCUS PINO: The boys’ basketball coach at Alamo Navajo, Pino died from complications of COVID-19 on April 16 at age 42.

CALVIN ALLEN: A massive, big-hearted Lobos offensive lineman from 92-95, Allen died in Albuquerque on April 16 at age 47.

GUY WIMBERLY: He excelled in golf for some six decades as a player, an instructor, a manager and a steward of the game. Wimberly died in Truth or Consequences on May 1 at age 81.

JOHN BAREFOOT: Far better known and respected as an educator, Barefoot lives on in Lobo football lore for the game-winning 60-yard touchdown catch he made in the 1956 homecoming game against Montana. A Tucumcari High School graduate, Barefoot died on May 23 at 85.

BECKY LEE: She coached Albuquerque High’s girls to two state tennis championships and was a longtime steward of the sport in New Mexico. Lee died on June 1 at age 54.

SUSAN BERG AND JORDON VAUGHN: Berg, 50, and Vaughn, 21, were two of the UNM men’s basketball team’s most devoted and beloved fans. Berg, lovingly known as “Crazy Lobo Lady,” died on June 10. Vaughn, who suffered from a debilitating illness called neurofibromatosis II for most of his life, died on May 16.

BILL GENTRY: A New Mexico high school coaching legend, Gentry’s Highland and Eldorado teams won a total of 305 games. His HHS teams won three state titles. Gentry died on or about June 20 at age 93.

MIRANDA SANCHEZ: A highly skilled and immensely popular Lobo women’s basketball player from 1998-2001, Sanchez died on July 13 at age 41.

MYRL SMITH: He was Albuquerque High’s head football coach from 1958-74, twice taking the Bulldogs to the state championship game. Smith died on July 25 in Fort Collins, Colorado at age 96.

LOU HENSON: In his two stints as head basketball coach at New Mexico State, plus his years at Hardin-Simmons and Illinois, Henson won 779 games, took the Aggies and the Illini to the Final Four and was recently announced as a candidate for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He died on July 25 at age 88.

FEDONTA “J.B.” WHITE: Just 18 and about to embark on a college basketball career at UNM, the Santa Fe High star was shot and killed at a party on Aug. 1.

RICHARD MIRABAL: Though he trained professional boxers, the amateurs were his love. Mirabal died on Aug. 19 at age 56.

BILLY MOYA: A lifelong Albuquerque resident, Moya was the first club professional at Los Altos Golf Course when it opened in 1960. He later worked at Ladera and was an outstanding player, having won the New Mexico Open and several other tournaments. He died on Aug. 31 at age 96.

BOB SWEENEY: He was UNM’s men’s head basketball coach from 1958-62, but Sweeney had his greatest success with the St. Michael’s College Knights in his hometown of Santa Fe. He died on Sept. 17 at 93.

JERRY BUCKNER: For years, the former UNM football player drove a bus for Lobo football and basketball teams. Buckner died in a Texas bus crash on Sept. 29. He was 71.

CAL GUYMON: A highly respected teacher and coach at Valley High School in the 1970s, Guymon later served as President of the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame board. He died on Oct. 4 at age 77.

PRENTIS JONES: A former UNM football player, Jones coached at Rio Grande High School, principally track and field, for almost 50 years. He died on Nov. 3 of complications from COVID-19 at age 75.

GIL MIRANDA: The gentlemanly, scholarly Miranda was APS’ director of athletics from 1972-84 and later became a standout senior softball player. Miranda died at his home in Albuquerque on Oct. 24 at age 98.

ZOILO DOMINGUEZ: A native of Argentina, Dominguez, a 6-foot-8 basketball center, averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds per game for College of St. Joseph/University of Albuquerque from 1963-67. Having made his primary post-basketball home in New Mexico, he died on Nov. 5 at age 81.

NORMAN McNEW: An Alamogordo High School graduate, McNew excelled at UNM in rodeo – yes, UNM once had a rodeo team – in the late 1940s-early ’50s and was a proud Lobo letterman. He died in Albuquerque on Nov. 10 at age 92.

NICK LOBUE: He worked tirelessly in the Albuquerque Isotopes’ front office from their inception in 2002 until his death on Nov. 27. He was 71.

MIKE MITTELSTAEDT: His athletes remember this longtime Albuquerque running coach as unselfish, giving and dedicated. He died on Nov. 24 at age 78.

KELVIN SCARBOROUGH: Among the most electrifying basketball players in UNM history, Scarborough fought through some difficult times to be a coach, a counselor and an entrepreneur. The ever-enthusiastic “Scar” died on Nov. 30 at age 56.

JIMMY COLLINS: One of New Mexico State’s finest, Collins and the late Sam Lacey led Henson’s 1969-70 Aggies to the Final Four. Collins, who followed Henson into the college coaching ranks, died on Dec. 13 at age 74 after undergoing open-heart surgery.

DENNIS CHAVEZ: A boxing ring announcer, Chavez became woven into the fabric of the sport as a supporter and friend to all who crossed his path. He died of complications from COVID on Dec. 16. He was 66.

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