John Paul Valdez
(January 15, 1962 – July 3, 2023)
One of the few advantages of living into your sixties and haphazardly nearly dying from recurring bouts of pancreatitis—being repeatedly hospitalized in Palm Springs, California on several successive occasions over the months and thinking you are not sick, just too damn busy, and then going into the hospital again, surviving over and over, and walking out of the hospital (sometimes against medical advice) many times, is that you come to think you will not die, and that you are managing your situation, and that you can go on deferring the work of planning much in case you do (die).
John Paul Valdez enjoyed that advantage, until one day he went back to the hospital and died of septic shock, brought on by acute pancreatitis, which he pretty much ignored and found to be a bother. JP loved wine, good food, the company of his friends. He went on enjoying wine long after his doctors advised him that he could go on doing all that he enjoyed doing for even more time if he would remove wine from the overall joyful combination. He didn’t.
JP was born in El Paso, Texas on January 15, 1962. He grew up in beautiful Coronado Hills with his parents and three brothers and two sisters. A Catholic family, they all regularly attended church together every Sunday for years on end. The enchanting El Paso desert offered JP things like tarantulas to collect and study, tortoises to feed, lizards to catch, a place to name hills, hike and build forts, fossils to collect, and miles and miles of very hot sand and rocks to dare walk across near all the sage, mesquite and cactus in the bright midday-summer-sun, without shoes—just to see what it was like.
Upon his “graduation” from the Eighth-grade he came home with a large box of prizes and trophies that no one asked him much about. He had been awarded 9 of the 11 available honors and recognitions given to students in his grade that year. That summer he also won the Texas regional Science Fair Sweepstakes-grand-prize—for the second year in a row. The first Sweepstakes-grand-prize ribbon he won was for an all-out presentation on the effects of tarantula-spider-venom. The Second grand-prize win was for something totally unscientific. Somehow, he had convinced the judges in this highly-competitive all-schools science fair contest that the small pyramids (oriented just so to the North) that he made and exhibited had the power to do such things as sharpen razor blades, and make the pyramid-treated wine he was testing taste better than his control sample. There was JP, at age 12, serving wine at the science fair to the Judges, while perfectly explaining the Scientific Method.
It was no surprise to anyone that knew him that John Paul Valdez would be leaving El Paso to attend the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He left El Paso for high school with his requisite navy blue and tweed blazers, white button-down shirts, ties, and all-cotton khaki pants. While at Exeter, he somehow managed to crack the school’s master computer passcode (and was caught in the glorious Louis Kahn designed Exeter library looking at what must have been very boring administrative matters before they shut down his access). He won the Exeter Math-Prize one year for being the only student who solved a given equation in record time.
At the end of that first year at Exeter he came home with a familiarity with Latin, and the logic equations of Irving Copi. He told a hilarious story about going out for swimming, an in-pool collision with a student-colleague that caused the skin on his face and skull to massively swell up by morning, and a resulting first-stay in the school’s infirmary. Thoughtfully, to get from his dorm room to the infirmary without scaring anyone, he put a paper bag over his head. To hear him describe the nurse who removed the bag screaming and fainting made us all laugh. Unfortunately, the next year he was in the Exeter Infirmary again. It turns out that the school also used that place to temporarily keep students that were in the process of being “sent down” … JP had violated one of their rules for something he did off-campus, and he was kicked out, and no one there ever saw him on the campus ever again.
In due time JP solved his dilemma about how to get a high school degree by taking a test and getting a GED. He then attended the University of Texas at El Paso for one year, before attending and graduating from the University of Texas at Houston with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then earned a Master of Business Administration and International Finance degree at IESE in Barcelona, Spain. There, his teachers made him tell a new story at the start of each Finance class as penance for being late to a class early on. He received the most job offers of any graduate in his Class. Upon leaving Barcelona, he attended the Institut de François in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, while spending the evenings in Monaco. That’s how he learned to speak French.
We are sure that JP would like to thank all of his teachers at Putnam Elementary School, especially Mrs. White, the teacher that made him realize that he could do math, test well, and win all those prizes. He would also like to have mentioned Miss Webber because he would often describe (when mentioning his elementary school experiences) that she drove a Jaguar E-Type V12 of the shiniest possible British Racing Green, and that her gold charm bracelet dangled from her wrist. And to the great country of France, which he loved, he would want to say thanks for its generosity to him.
JP loved travel, witty conversation, driving his motorcycle in France (Paris especially), long walks, magazines, and good books. Charles Dickens was among his favorite authors (because he liked to pretend that he grew up in “abject poverty”). He also liked the many writers of the World Book Encyclopedia, which he read cover to cover before he was thirteen years old. His favorite entry was for the Aardwolf (an insectivorous species of hyena that he laughed about and told everyone about because he knew it was mischaracterized as a “carnivorous quadruped”). JP also collected books on seashells and boasted that he had "over nine-linear feet of books on seashells” including the astonishingly beautiful, heavy picture book “THE SHELL: Five Hundred Million Years of Inspired Design.” Despite living in the desert southwest, JP built an impressive collection of sea-shells from all over the world, mainly by trading them in descriptive correspondence with members of the American Malacological Union (now Society), exhibiting them (together with his brother’s awesome sea shell collection) that together took up every single glass case on two floors in the main-branch of the El Paso Public Library downtown, the summer the collections were on display. The local newspapers did a story on it!
Aside from his first 12-years of life, to when he left El Paso to attend Exeter, and the year he was at UTEP, JP was a life-long resident of other wondrous places where he was either a student, traveling, or engaged in his professional life: Houston (~7 yrs), Barcelona (IESE, ~3 yrs), Frankfurt (General Motors, Small vehicle sales, ~1 year) Paris (L’Oréal Group, Lancôme, and other adventures, ~7 yrs, and where he lived in a beautiful apartment “in the 9th” directly facing the top of the Corinthian colonnade of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette), New York City (~2 yrs), Palm Springs, California (Wells Fargo Bank, Private Wealth Management, and Residential Real Estate Brokerage ~24 yrs). From time to time, JP was also a commentator for Univision, Spanish radio, covering economic issues.
JP was preceded in death by his loving mother Consuelo Bertha Petra Springer (nee Connie Sherman), and father Charles R. Valdez, and by his older brothers Charles Valdez and James Valdez. He is survived by his brother David Valdez and sisters Yvonne Ziegler and Celine Valdez, and many much-loved cousins (36 first cousins!), aunts, uncles, in-laws, and friends.
JP was given the gift of life, and he gave it back in the form of joyful friendship. He knew he was a lucky man, who led a lucky existence, and for this we know he was grateful. He first got sick in Paris when in his 20s after having been infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. He thought the infection was terminal, and he almost died. But thanks to his very good French doctors and nurses, and his loving mother and family and friends helping him to recover, he lived far past the 33 to 34 years of age (as he often said it) that Jesus lived to be.
His outlook worked very well for him, most of the time. And now, John Paul Valdez is at peace. His remains have been spread in the Pacific Ocean at Laguna Beach, California, and in Paris France, on the bridges and in the river Seine which he loved so much.
JP left us confident that we will meet again, joyfully, and when we least expect it, on the other side.