The 19th annual Park at the Park in Rio Rancho Saturday was a big hit. There were plenty of cool cars in the fleet, but one ride stood out from the crowd — a United States Postal Service truck honoring the mail carrier gunned down earlier this week.
Close friends of Jose ‘Pepe’ Hernandez say he loved cars and this event was one he surely wouldn’t miss so, they made sure he could still be a part of it, in spirit.
“It is not a rare thing for him to step in and help somebody. I mean it would have never crossed my mind that he would not help somebody,” said Len Johnson, Rio Rancho resident. “He was that kind of guy. He knew no strangers. Everybody loved him.”
Friends of ‘Pepe’, the mail carrier who was shot and killed while on his route in Albuquerque Monday, say he was a father of four, who was still a kid at heart. He loved all cars, even hot wheels.
“Typically we would run into Pepe with his family just taking a look at all the beautiful cars,” said Melissa Brown, a family friend.
Melissa Brown and her family have been close to the Hernandezs for more than 12 years. When they heard the tragic news, they knew they had to help.
“Pepe was the sole provider for the family and they do have four children,” Brown said. “So we just kind of want to ease the burden a little bit for his widow and give her an opportunity to grieve.”
Which is why she reached out to USPS to ensure ‘Pepe’ could still be at the Rio Rancho car show, even if only in spirit.
“We talked to the post office and they permitted us to bring down a truck and of course put up a picture of Pepe,” Brown said. “So we can just let people know about the fund we have established for his family.”
People from all over, touched by this tragedy, stopped to pay their respects.
“We just love him. We love him and will miss him,” Johnson said. “Tremendously.”
People checked out the mail truck and learned more about the man who left a lasting impact on his community.
“We know our mailman at home and we really love him,” said Santa Fe resident Pat Lucero. “It’s just tragic to happen to anybody.”
“We just want to help out with whatever we can,” said LeGrand Johnson. “We feel like we’re not doing enough really.”
To donate to the Hernandez family, just stop by any New Mexico Wells Fargo branch and ask for the Jose “Pepe” Hernandez memorial fund.
There will be a memorial service for Pepe this Monday in Rio Rancho. The teen accused of killing him is in federal custody.