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July 2024

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Courtesy Photo Henry Arellano shared a photo of Tony Espinoza posing with his students

Years of Service: Tony “Espy” Espinoza

Well-loved and respected educator Tony “Espy” Espinoza passed away this past June at the age of 91, leaving a widespread sentiment of grief amongst former students.

He taught full-time in Questa schools from 1958 through 1991. He went on to fight wildfires for some time but didn’t stay away from the public education system for long, returning to substitute teaching around 2003, which he did intermittently until 2023. He will go down in history as Questa’s oldest substitute teacher, at 90 years old.

While Espy didn’t have children of his own, he remained close to his students, nieces, and nephews. His niece Tina Cisneros shared with our publication that when her dad died, she and Espy became very close. She said, “I will miss Mr. Espy being at my house on a daily basis and doing things for him all the time. I knew when he would win at the casino because he’d always have me order tires for his car. He would tell me his whole life stories with his students, friends, hunting, fishing, and his love for his cats…He was like my second dad,” she said.

This is a similar sentiment to many who took to social media to share their grief in response to his passing.

A social media post from his niece, Questa Schools teacher and assistant volleyball coach Delena Trujillo, read, “It was always so exciting to have you as a substitute in school. It didn’t matter what subject you were supposed to be teaching us, somehow, we always ended up learning about genetics and recessive/dominant traits. I think that was your favorite topic to talk about in school. Questa games won’t be the same without you, either. Our community lost a great man and teacher. Rest in Peace Tio Tony.”

Pauline Rivera, owner of La Voz Magazine in Denver wrote a heartfelt dedication to honor his memory in her publication. It read, in part, “When Espy asked you to do something, you did it. He commanded respect like no other teacher. If you chose to disrespect him, it would be a tough four-year journey. The biggest lesson learned from this one-of-a-kind teacher was that of respect and discipline. You learned to follow the rules, or you chose to become part of F-Troop, as he called his many unengaged students. Mr. Espy, you were a unique educator whose consistency in everyday school life and, yes, your unique charm earned you a spot in the hearts of many. I will miss your academic tactics and your sense of humor. I, for one, am a better person for knowing you. You instilled discipline, determination, meeting the challenge, and just plain spunk. Vaya con Dios, Espy.”

Alicia Cisneros, another niece, shared several photos along with a post on Facebook which read, “Tio Tony, we are gonna miss all your stories & seeing you cruising. Thank you for always bringing us snacks, cakes & potatoes. Always thinking of Lyanna & Alexx. Making it to all their games. You will be missed by so many! Rest in Peace Tio. I know Grandpa was there with open arms ready to be with his big bro. We love you.”

Henry Arellano took to Facebook to share an old photo and comment, “Rest in peace Espy! You made a dear and lasting impression on so many of us. We are grateful to have learned from one of the best.”
Bernie Jaramillo also commented on Facebook, “Mr. Espinosa was our principal when I was in high school. As a freshman you feared him. By the time I was a senior I knew him as a friend. Rest in peace, Espi.”

Ultimately, the life and impact of Espy will be felt for generations to come. He treated every student he encountered as if they had the potential to become something great. He had an innate belief that his interactions with his students made a difference in their lives. The outpouring from his former students is proof that he was right. Rest in Peace, Espy.