Friday, February 29, 2008

Panchito passed away

Panchito, otherwise known as Gary Francis Gray, died this week. Panchito was a vibrant, healthy soul who, though retired, still herded carts at the Westwood Target. He also spent hours walking through the neighborhood. During cold or rainy days he would stop by the café for a big mug of hot coffee and a maple bar. He spoke great Spanish and had recently taken up Vietnamese. He was only 62 years old.

Gary did not like his middle name, Francis. One day he found himself working with a group of Latinos who told him that in Spanish, Francis was Pancho (as in PanchoVilla). Panchito, which is the diminutive of Pancho, is what Gary liked to be called. He liked the name so much that he took it upon himself to learn Spanish. Panchito spoke the language flawlessly and we enjoyed conversing with him in Spanish.

Not one to be left behind by any immigrant group, Panchito had recently taken it upon himself to learn Vietnamese. In Spanish or Vietnamese, there was not a hint of an accent when he spoke. He saw what the immigrant community was doing for White Center and being of a broad mind understood that the area was being revitalized by immigrants. He welcomed the change.

We have lost a tolerant and vibrant being in Panchito. Sadly, we have also lost a gentle soul. I grieve for my friend and for this community.

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