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By Abe Villarreal

Life can be tough. Today my best friend's dad passed away. It was unexpected. A slip in the bathroom and a cry for help. Suddenly a man's life is over.

He left behind a family of young and old kids. A loving wife. A lifetime of memories. Most importantly, he left behind the permanent imprint of a big smile.

A couple of week's ago, I wrote to you about David Cota. The guy that faced a world of challenges with a great big smile. I forgot to mention that his cheery disposition was passed down from his dad.

They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. What a wonderful trait to pass down to the next generation. At 63 years of age, Joshua Cota's tree blossomed with abundance. His kids are richer than they could ever imagine.

Only a short week ago, I was staffing the outdoor graduation ceremony at Western New Mexico University where David was receiving his Master's degree. You know David's story already. What you don't know is that his father was the loudest guy on the field.

Hundreds of people were gathered to celebrate the happy occasion. Graduation ceremonies can be particularly emotional, especially for a guy that was born in the kind of poverty you read about but rarely get to experience.

Joshua Cota raised five kids. For many years, he worked at Church's Chicken while his wife dishwashed her way through several restaurants. The couple did what they knew to do, with limited education, but love for their children.

David's graduation ceremony was the appropriate closing chapter in the 63-year-old's life. At least it seemed that way to me from the field. I didn't see him at first but I heard him loud and clear.

Even before his son David walked out to the familiar commencement theme song, Joshua was cheering him on. He wanted everyone in Silver City to know that he was David's dad.

The Bible says that we should make a loud and joyful noise. Joshua took this scripture to heart. I'm convinced that many of us are happier than we realize. Sometimes it takes the passing of a loud and joyful person like Joshua to make us realize how happy we can be, if we want it.

Joshua wanted it, not just for himself but also for everyone around him. He was a man of faith, family, and community. He never let his smile turn upside down and it was a testament to his love for the Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi once said that we should preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.

Joshua didn't need words. His life's example, through the success of his children, the love of his wife, and the impact that he left on others, were not through words but through actions.

Not big actions that are meant be showed off in newspaper pictures or in front of groups of people. It was the little actions. The turning on of a smile. The handshake and hug that anyone could have. The look into your eyes no matter how much of a stranger you were.

That guy with the smile you learned about two weeks ago, he got it from his dad. What a wonderful legacy.

Abe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.

Live from Silver City

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