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He’s not exactly an unsung hero anymore, but only because he’s been sung a few times before.
Two years ago, De Colores, Inc., the organization that sponsors the Hispanic Cultural Festival named Jerry Romero one of their “unsung heroes” at their annual banquet in Albuquerque.
And now he is the guy with the motorcycle on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s “Million Reasons to Give” poster for the 2009 Employee Giving Campaign. There’s a quote: “You ask, ‘Where’s the love?’ Open your heart. It’s all around you.”
So, the secret is out on Romero, a research technologist in the chemistry division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, born and raised across the valley in Chimayo.
But he’s not big on claiming credit and that may be one reason he has come to represent in a quiet way, the ultimate volunteer.
When the subject is lending a hand, Romero comes to mind.
Among other things, he helped start a crime prevention organization in Chimayo, which led to a whole series of other involvements, including a Teen program, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Approximately 10 years ago, he was trying to start an organization that would provide housing and improve homes for people in his neighborhood, when somebody suggested that an organization already existed that had all the insurance and paperwork ready to go.
He has been a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity since then, where he is now a member of the family selection committee, he said. He has built five houses and worked on a number of renovations in the Española Valley and Los Alamos.
“Just growing up and being in that environment puts you in a position where you wouldn’t want somebody else to be in that position,” he said, recalling a tough childhood.
“All my life, I’ve been helping people,” he said. “It’s the way I was brought up, helping people, having respect for elders.”
Romero’s father passed away when he was young. He and three sisters were raised by a single mother. He has raised two sons as a single father.
“All of us are doing super,” he said. “I have a job at the lab, great supervisors and a group leader who really understands. I feel I’m rich compared to when I was a kid. Thank God for my health, for a beautiful day and my kids. The most important thing in my life is my mom and my kids.”
After his two sons graduated from the University of New Mexico, he said, “I came back to the motorcycle. I’ve ridden it very little, but just having it is knowing I can do anything I want.”
He feels he owes a debt on his good fortune. He’s busy all the time.
“People say they don’t have time,” he said. “I think that’s a cop-out.”
One idea he has for retirement sounds almost too good to be true. He said he wanted to be an all-around handyman in the valley and do the little jobs that people need done around the house, like fixing a broken well or draining a pipe.
Instead of the usual $70 or $80 service call, he’ll make use of things he has learned working on Habitat or at the lab.
“Oh, that was easy,” he’ll say, and charge just a fraction of that.
So many people do things in life that aren’t recognized, but Romero has a different take.
“I think God sees all that,” he said.