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North Country loses 'father of running'

Dr. Robert Lopez, known to many area residents as Doc or The Running Guru, died on March 12, 2007. He was 84. Lopez was born Sept. 27, 1922 and married his wife, Margorie, in 1945. He is survived by 14 children, 25 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. His love for running, along with his many children, earned him the affectionate nickname father of running in the North Country. Dr. Lopez ran over 65 marathons and ultramarathons, including the 50-mile JFK Maryland marathon and organized countless races, including the annual Westport 24 hour marathon. One of the races founded by Lopez is the Run for Hope, one of the oldest road races held in the Adirondacks. The race is run from Keene to Elizabethtown on the third weekend in March. The race has grown in popularity, and attracts about 100 participants annually. He was a man ahead of his time when it came to fitness and running, said Fred Hooper, who took over the race about a dozen years ago. He certainly left his mark not only as a generous man who offered this race, but as a kind, giving man. Dan McCormick, a family friend, said that Lopezs legacy was felt throughout the North Country. Among the races he was involved in were the 24 Hour Marathon and The Sara-Placid Race. He described Lopez as a very giving, affable person. He loved animals, he was a caring and committed veterinarian, and he was also a lot of fun to be around. He had a lot of energy and a lot of positive vibration, said McCormick. Lopez owned and operated the Westport, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake Veterinary Hospitals. He was the president of the New York State Veterinary Medical Association in 1991, a Director of the New York State Conservation Council, volunteered veterinary service in Dominican Republic for the Heifer International program and spearheaded the horse protection transportation project legislation. Dr. Lopez was the president and consulting veterinarian for the North Country SPCA, a venture he and wife Marge founded in 1967 and operated until 1989. Lopez was active with the Adirondack Council Boy Scouts of America, The Westport Fish and Game Club, Essex County Fish and Game League, St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, Lake Placid Kiwanis Club, Lake Placid Road Runners Club, Lake Placid Sports Council and Westport Chamber of Commerce. He was appointed by Gov. Hugh Carey to the New York State Winter Sports Education Trust in 1979, and was one of the 52 torch bearers in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics representing Lake Placid. He served for several years as chairman of the Essex County Democratic Party. The current chairwoman, Sue Montgomery Corey, said his commitment to the party is still felt today. He really had a commitment to making things real to people thats the spirit we try to continue with, said Corey. So many of the people he influenced have continued with the party. Its a good tribute.

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