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A former member of Pierotti’s Clowns, Jose Noe Lujan, died at his home in Los Alamos July 6 after a long battle with cancer. He was 77.
Lujan, who was born in Española, was a catcher on the nationally-famous five-man softball team from Los Alamos in the late 1950s, catching games for star pitcher Bernard L. “Bun” Ryan.
The team’s founding member, Lou Pierotti, often got together with Lujan to play golf or partake in other activities when they weren’t on the softball field.
“He was very competitive,” Pierotti said. “Anything he did, he always wanted to win.”
According to his family, Lujan was a Korean War veteran. During his service, Lujan was decorated with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
Ryan, who “went through catchers like I went through socks” in his heyday, remembered Lujan’s first game catching for the Clowns.
In that game, the Clowns earned a 2-1 victory in Durango, Colo., playing against the Durango city squad. Durango was the reigning Colorado state open champion at the time.
Lujan’s fiery, competitive nature shone through when he was with the Clowns.
“He kept everyone on their toes, I’ll tell you that,” Ryan said.
Lujan played with the Clowns for four seasons.
Pierotti’s Clowns played for 22 years before retiring in 1977, winning 177 of 200 games. All the proceeds from their games went to charity.
Prior to entering the Korean War, Lujan was a four-sport star at Española High School, letting in football, basketball, track and baseball. Pierotti said in high school, officials from Los Alamos High School tried to talk Lujan’s parents into sending him to school in Los Alamos so he could participate in its athletic program.
Pierotti said during his time with the Clowns, Lujan’s favorite road trip was to play at the New Mexico State Penitentiary against the inmates’ teams, which the Clowns dubbed “Pen State.”
“He knew that he was bringing entertainment to many of the hundreds of inmates,” Pierotti said. “He always said that made him feel like he was doing something worthwhile.”
Catching was probably toughest position on the Clowns’ team, not only because the hard-firing Ryan was difficult to catch, but because Pierotti would often paint cantaloupes or grapefruits up like softballs and have Ryan pitch those at batters, getting the Clowns’ catchers full of pulp or juice.
When not playing for the Clowns, Lujan worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s S-Site, his workplace for 36 years.
Lujan is survived by his wife, Patricia Lujan, daughter Marty Montoya and her husband Leroy of Lubbock, Texas; his son Rick Lujan and daughter-in-law Loretta of Los Alamos; and his son Terry Lujan and his wife Cheryl, also of Los Alamos.
Additionally, Lujan is survived by his brothers Tony, Felix, Toby and Sevedeo, as well as their wives Rose, Carla, Elizabeth and Jackie.
Sevedeo Lujan is also a former Clown who is far better known by his nickname, Goofy.
Pierotti said Lujan was a very important member of the team throughout his tenure.
“The Clowns were the goodwill ambassadors of Los Alamos and New Mexico,” he said. “They were ambassadors of the Los Alamos Kiwanis Club, and Noe made this possible.”