Sometimes life just sucks.
It is a brutal statement but one that is painfully true. As we welcomed the new year with all the hope of putting 2020 behind us, we lost a pair of people that I knew or knew of within days of each other.
Joe Rose Jr., a longtime leader with the Pleasanton Junior Football League, and Kevin Gallegos Lopez, a 2014 Foothill alum who was a standout wrestler for the Falcons, left us in such a short period of time.
Joe Rose Jr.
Joe, a 1970 graduate of Amador Valley, passed on Dec. 30 of a heart attack at the age of 69, leaving a group of longtime Pleasanton residents stunned.
I grew up in Pleasanton, and every kid in the 1960s and 1970s knew Joe Jr. -- or "Big Joe" or "Big Daddy," pick your nickname. Joe cut an imposing figure around what was then a small town. His father Joe Sr. was arguably the most popular and well-known police officer in the history of Pleasanton.
Joe Jr. was larger than life.
"You got that right," said Mike Lusby, one of Joe's best friends. "Since he passed, I have been getting so many texts and calls talking about how great a guy he was. He was that way since the beginning."
Joe, who was older than Lusby, took him under his wing once he hit high school.
"He may have been two years older than me, but he took an interest in my football game," Lusby explained. "We would go after practice and work out more at a local park. He was the reason I was a two-way starter."
Lusby also recalls how Joe taught him how to look at life.
"He instilled the 'don't give a (crap) about what other people think of you,'" Lusby said, laughing. "He could hang out and feel comfortable with any group -- the jock group or the hippie band people."
Joe was one of the driving forces in the PJFL. He was not only a board member and a coach, but a mentor to incoming coaches.
He also coached junior football in Livermore and was so respected by both programs that the annual Pleasanton-Livermore All-Star game is called "The Joe Rose Bowl."
I know he took a great amount of pride when former PJFL players came back and in turn coached in the league. Greg Chandler was one such player.
The former Foothill athlete and current Foothill assistant coach played for Joe and then coached alongside him. The 2019 Cardinals team where Chandler and Joe coached was Joe's last team and was his 50th year coaching.
"Joe was a gentle giant," Chandler said. "He always cared more about teaching us the right way to play and carry yourself on the field rather than worrying about winning."
Guy Houston, who was mayor of Dublin followed by serving in the California State Assembly, had his sons Bart and Sumner play for Joe in PJFL.
Bart went on to star as a QB for Wisconsin and Sumner as an offensive lineman for Oregon State. Houston has always felt Joe gave the boys a solid foundation.
"He really cared about the kids," Houston said. "It wasn't about winning, but the type of character the kids had. He was always so proud of my boys' accomplishments."
Joe was also a well-known wrestling coach in town.
"You could bet that he would be at every single Amador football or wrestling match," Lusby said.
Kevin Gallegos Lopez
It stinks when anyone dies, but when it is someone young, it stings right to your core. Such is the case when we heard 25-year-old Kevin passed on Jan. 2 from a stroke.
I can't speak for everyone, but when I see a kid with the world at his feet pass away, it finds me questioning my faith at times. I did not know Kevin personally, but my wife who works at Foothill and some of my kids knew Kevin.
I did not hear a bad word about Kevin, not just from my family, but from all I talked to about the young man
It is the kind of feeling that does not go away inside. The mid-20s is the age when you almost feel invincible, but then something pops up and turns your world upside down.
It is not fair.
Kevin was a popular student who wrestled at Foothill before moving on to Chico State where he recently graduated with a degree in public health sciences.
He was born in Mexico and attended Valley View Elementary and Pleasanton Middle before moving on to Foothill. He was the oldest of four siblings and was looked to as a hero by his brothers and sister.
As a Dreamer, he was an inspiration to all around him as he realized education was the best route to attain success.
There is a GoFundMe page set up for Kevin's family; it had raised over $47,000 from community contributions as of Tuesday morning. Please click the link if you'd like to donate.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his "Pleasanton Preps" column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.