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Remembering my friend Tim Chavez

LatinaLista — Long before Tim Chavez achieved notoriety as the political columnist for The Tennessean who was unceremoniously let go by the newspaper while he was in the hospital battling for his life against leukemia, I knew Tim when he was a goofy high school student with a quick wit and a sense of humor that made it hard to stay offended by his adolescent jokes.
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When I met Tim, I was living in Oklahoma City where my family had relocated. I had accepted a job as a bilingual assistant in an elementary school while going to college. The teacher I reported to was the mother of Tim’s best friend Mark.
Tim and Mark were inseparable high school friends who took it upon themselves to be the little brothers I never had. Every week when I would have to go to the teacher’s house to make something for our class of kindergartners, Tim and Mark would coincidentally be there too.
For hours on end, I would be subjected to the awkward flirtations of both boys as Tim would crack one joke after another to get my attention. Over time, I found a boyfriend and before long was planning my wedding. Those two got more involved with school, finding prom dates and figuring out what they were going to do with the rest of their lives.
I felt sure Tim was on his way to a career as a stand-up comedian. He felt sure I was on my way to being a bilingual teacher. We were both wrong.


The irony that both of us ended up as journalists was not lost on either of us. Over the years, I kept up with Tim’s career until he finally settled in Nashville.
It wasn’t until last year that we finally reconnected.
Life was not going good for Tim. He was divorcing his wife, his mother had died and he felt pretty abandoned by the women in his life. Our conversations were, at first, reminiscing about all those good times we had sitting around the kitchen table at Mark’s house.
Tim filled me in on the years we had lost contact and vice versa. He started calling or emailing me on a bi-weekly basis just to check in and see how I and my family were doing.
It wasn’t long before our past relationship as a quasi brother and sister resurfaced. Never good at speaking Spanish, Tim told me he wanted to call me his “hermana grande” because he wanted me to his big sister.
I told him it was one thing for me to his big sister and quite another to be his BIG sister. I convinced him to just refer to me as his hermana.
He would always start our conversations by telling me that he was the vice president of my fan club because he knew my mother was the president. From there, our conversations took different directions. From talking about our blogs to discussing politics to even telling me about how he was trying to adjust to living a single’s life.
Yet, during this time, Tim had found a newfound devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and with helping his local Latino community. He was even practicing his Spanish more.
Tim was very modest about the work he did in Nashville with the local community and I didn’t realize his devotion to them until last December when he called me so excited about celebrating the feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe at a church he attended. He had donated some money to the church in his mother’s memory and was so pumped about the celebration.
We never talked much about his illness. He always said that he knew God had given him a gift of a few more years that he shouldn’t have had but he felt optimistic that he was going to overcome the leukemia in some way.
Since January, Tim and I got busy with our respective lives. Though we talked, it wasn’t as often. Two weeks ago, something told me I should pick up the phone and call him. However, that thought was replaced with “I’ll call him tomorrow” as I got busy writing something.
For Tim and I, writing was the lifeline we shared to make sense of people, who as Tim liked to describe, through the “poverty of their experiences” couldn’t see the harm their rhetoric and actions had on a community that struggled to live equally.
Though there were many sides of Tim, the Tim I will always remember is the goofy, joking high schooler who blossomed into a brave defender of people’s rights.
He was the kind of guy that made this big sister very proud.

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Comment(11)

  • Avatar
    Peter Coyotl
    June 20, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I have read Tim’s blog from time to time in the past. It is sad to learn of his death. His words reached out and touched many. Your column today reached out and touched me. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    Gerry
    June 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend Tim Chavez. While he and I never met, I know we’ve lost a special person.
    It was a year ago when I found Tim’s Political Salsa and added it to my reader. So I was saddened, but not surprised–given health, when Tim’s prolific blogging came to a halt.
    I’m sorry for those who’ll never meet Tim, in person or through the book that never was, because I’m sure they would’ve been enlightened and inspired.
    May he rest in peace.

  • Avatar
    Jesus Chairez
    June 21, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Sorry to hear about your friend, but I found the joy in reading your tribute. It touched me deeply tambien.
    Talk to him often and listen in the silence for he will always be there for you.

  • Avatar
    Horace
    June 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    My condolences on your loss.

  • Avatar
    Texan123
    June 22, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you for your tribute to your friend, Tim. His battle is over, praise God. He can rest now.
    I am a survivor of leukemia. I was 34 with 3 young children and no insurance when I was diagnosed. By God’s grace I was given more time to raise my family. More time to seek Go’d guidance and direction for my life.
    We may never agree on the pros and cons of illegal immigration. But we should never take life for granted.
    Each day is a gift. That’s why they call it the “present”.

  • Avatar
    Mike
    June 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Tim was the editorial page editor in Utica, N.Y., when I arrived at the newspaper there close to a decade-and-a-half ago. He managed to give the poor and oppressed a voice in a community where such individuals were/are rarely heard. Tim always seemed quite serious to me then — I enjoyed reading he had once been so much fun in high school. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    Peggy Shaw
    June 22, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks for your tribute to my dear friend Ti Chavez. Words cannot convey how much he will be missed, nor can they capture how much good he did with his shortened life. At least we know that there were women out there who did not abandon him.

  • Avatar
    Adriana
    June 22, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Marisa,
    What a lovely tribute to your dear friend. I also read Tim’s blog and had communicated with him a few times previously. He definitely had a passion for bringing awareness to the plight of the immigrants in his community.
    May he rest in peace.

  • Avatar
    kyledeb
    June 27, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention, Marisa. I am truly saddened by the loss of Tim Chavez.

  • Avatar
    Anthony
    June 30, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing it
    May this collegue of ours who has join the sun set meet the angels in his resting place.
    Siéntete en paz. La causaperdurara y los sueñosse harán realidad.
    Thank you for the great work you did.
    My condolences on your loss.

  • Avatar
    Gerald Chavez
    July 8, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    To my dear Brother, who suffered tremendously, is now in heaven and is very happy with Mom, Dad, and Father Scheller. Tim and Kathi, Lucy and Desi, will always have a special place in my heart. I always pray for Tim and Kathi every day. Remember Buddy-Bear, notorious dog, and I love you very much. Thank you, Tim, for all the things you have done for me. I miss you.
    Your Brother, Gerald

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