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A life paid forward

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Time is the one commodity in life that cannot be begged, borrowed or bought. There is never enough time and like youth, it is fleeting. The good moments, like the bad ones, come quickly and are stolen from us in a heartbeat.

Life happens when it is least expected — Zamora had just refereed two basketball games at Goddard High School and was set to participate in the Knights of Columbus free throw contest the next morning.

The Roswell athletic community lost a friend in Vidal “Lolly” Zamora on Feb. 1, 2019, when he died of a heart attack. Roswell sports fans know him because he was a fabric of the community. He was always there to blow his whistle in football and basketball and to call players out at the plate in baseball.

Outside of his family, “Lolly” lived to umpire — in fact, many think he was born to officiate games. And without an umpire, teams are not able to play the games. He decided early in his life that he wanted to make his living and life as an umpire and he wanted to do it where he grew up, in Roswell.

“Lolly” answered the three questions that each human being has to answer with the time we are given: 1. How are we going to spend the time we are given? 2. Who are we going to spend our time with? 3. How are we going to make a living with the time we have?

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“Lolly” was a man of action, and he wanted to be a part of it. He knew early in his life the woman he wanted to spend his life with was Sandra Carrillo. They had known each other since sixth grade, and Sandra’s not sure who chased who, only that they caught each other again and again, spending the next 37 years together after getting married in 1981 and having a family. “Lolly” and Sandra would have two children — son, Jason and daughter, Jennifer Zamora, and one grandson, Kian.

“‘Lolly’ was pretty dedicated to being a husband and father,” wife, Sandra Zamora said. “Being a grandfather was the joy of his life. He always wanted to pay it forward. Growing up, a lot of coaches gave him opportunities and he wanted to pass that on to others.”

One of the joys in “Lolly’s” life was coaching at NMMI, and then his son, Jason, at Roswell. When Jason played for his dad, “Lolly,” he felt like his dad was trying to get the best out of the team. “Lolly” taught him to play the game hard-nosed and to have fun.

“One of the things he would say,” Jason said. “‘I’m not going to eat because I’m hungry for a game. I’m going to get fed by going to get a win.’”

Jason feels like his dad, “Lolly” was harder on him because he didn’t want other players to think he was getting special treatment. Jason related that his dad was for the underdog in sports and in life.

“My dad, ‘Lolly’ was always rooting for the kids,” Jason said. “He was always rooting for the kids that didn’t come from the best backgrounds. He wanted to be a positive influence on the kids he came into contact with through coaching or officiating.”

Vidal “Lolly” Zamora officiating basketball. (Submitted Photo)

One of Jason’s best memories of his dad is when they were working hard, and “Lolly” would tell him, “No matter what, it’s all going to come to an end, whether it’s good or bad.”

“I miss his presence,” Jason said, “I miss that he has my back.”

When he graduated from high school, he wanted to test himself against the best and see if he could be one of them and earn the title of “Marine” — and he did, spending 16 years serving his country.

His service would take him around the world to Arizona, Japan, North Carolina, California and many other stops. Throughout his travels, “Lolly” always had a pull in his heart to come back to Roswell.

After he left the Corps, he and Sandra felt the urge to come back to Roswell in 1995, for a little while with his daughter, Jennifer, in elementary school and his son, Jason, in middle school. A little while ended up being the rest of his life.

Once settling back in Roswell, “Lolly” developed a passion for serving the youth of the community, which led him to volunteer as a coach or board member for such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club, Eastside Little League, National Youth Sports Association, National Federation of State High School Association, Character Counts and Hit, Pitch and Run contest.

Most important to him was his sense of fair play and opportunity for all youth to pursue their dreams in life through athletics, which is also what prompted “Lolly” to become involved and dedicate his life to professional officiating and fair play. He was a member of the New Mexico Activities Association, the New Mexico Officials Association and a Triple Play Umpire for NAIA Junior Colleges and NCAA.

One of the many relationships “Lolly” formed as an umpire was that of New Mexico Military Institute coach Charlie Ward. Their relationship goes back 25 years. Many years, “Lolly” would umpire in the Sertoma-Colt Classic.

“Lolly” had called over 50-60 percent of our games,” Ward said. “Lolly was always there for us. He was a very good friend of mine and I respected him as an official. This is very tough because I know his family very well. I know his son, Jason, really well. Jason was an excellent umpire, just like “Lolly.” I don’t know what to say, it’s just tough when you lose someone like that, and their life is taken so young. He was a great man and a great friend of ours.”

Ward would talk about how their relationship was more than the game and the game reinforced their friendship. Ward knows that true friendship is when they had their heated moments on the field and would later laugh about it after the game was over with. When “Lolly” wasn’t umpiring baseball at the Sertoma Colt Classic, he would be serving — taking tickets, working the concession stands.

“We lost a good friend,” Ward said, “we lost a good colleague and official in “Lolly.”

One of the things that many of the coaches admired about “Lolly” was that he was not a wishy-washy guy. He said what he believed and stood by it.

“You knew where you stood with him,” Roswell Youth Football League President James Edwards said. “He was opinionated, and he stood by his convictions, whether you thought he was right or wrong.”

Many people don’t know how he got the nickname “Lolly” — the story goes that his mother would take him to the barbershop and he would cry when he was in the chair. To appease him, the barber would give him a lollypop and he would quit crying.

“Lolly” and Sandra got to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary by taking a cruise to Jamaica, Cancun and the Cayman Islands with other couples celebrating the same milestone in 2006.

“I miss him as a companion,” Sandra said. “After being together that long, it is totally different now. Being together that long, you just miss your companion. I miss his tenacious spirit and how he awoke each day with a grateful heart and that he lived his life being selfless and supportive of his family and friends. Him not being here, that’s what I miss most about my dear, ‘Lolly.’”

“Lolly” had told Sandra when he died that he wanted the song, “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong played at his funeral. That wish was granted. “Lolly” lived his dreams of marrying the woman of his dreams, having a family and seeing his grandson. Also, serving his country and community, but most importantly, “Lolly” achieved his goal of paying it forward.

“Lolly” tried to make his time in life count with everything he did.

“Time is very slow for those that wait,” William Shakespeare said. “Very fast for those who are scared. Very long for those who lament. Very short for those who celebrate. But for those who love, time is eternal.”

The life of “Lolly” lives on through the loved ones he left behind, and his contributions to Roswell, not just in athletic competition, but in the community. His spirit will live on from his selfless contributions and the ethics of fair play he instilled in those around him, but more importantly, “Lolly’s” actions spoke louder than his words. Lolly invested time in his family and the youth of tomorrow, by being fair and impartial — but most of all — he spoke loudly by his presence.

“Lolly” Zamora paid life in full, with interest.