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Obituaries - March 02, 2023

Juan Navarro Navarro

Distinguished Ajijic artist Juan Navarro died at his home on Wednesday, February 21, succumbing to heart failure and complications from pancreatic cancer at age 65.

pg12aJuan was born August 28, 1958 in Ajijic, where he began his artistic pursuits as a young child, first under the tutelage of his artist father and namesake, and later in the children’s art program at the Biblioteca Pública founded by Neill James. He eventually enrolled in the University of Guadalajara (UdeG) School of Plastic Arts, specializing in engraving and classic intaglio printmaking while developing his unique style for representing themes of Mexican legends, customs and social life. He mastered techniques in numerous other media, including lithography, painting, muralism and ceramic sculpture.

His works have been exhibited in multiple shows at lakeside, in Guadalajara and elsewhere in Jalisco. Among professional distinctions, he was awarded first prize in engraving at the 1994 Salón de Octubre in Guadalajara, and also for a submission in an engraving competition in Winnipeg, Canada.

He leaves behind the permanent heritage of two impressive murals painted at the entrance to the Centro Cultural Ajijic (CCA). Evolución, adorning the ceiling dome, was inaugurated in May 2013. Venimos de Aztlán, depicting the foundation of Ajijic, was unveiled next to the stairway in September 2021.

Juan’s deep commitment to promoting culture and the arts led him to take up teaching positions at CCA, Guadalajara’s Instituto Cultural Cabañas and most recently in painting and ceramic workshops conducted at the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Chapala.

He is recognized as one of Ajijic’s signature interpreters of the traditional Sayaca masked dancer, and an outstanding participant in Mi Muñeca, the 2014 exposition of hand-crafted cartonería Lupita dolls held at Chapala City Hall. He embarked on a new artistic tangent in 2022, taking on the acting role of Don Felipe in Cuete, a short fiction film that premiered in December of last year at the Chapala Indie Film Festival (CIFF).

Juan will be fondly remembered for his modesty, gentle nature and generosity in sharing his knowledge and experienced skills with pupils and fellow artists.

He is survived by his sister Chelo who was accompanied by friends, neighbors, and his Neill James Legacy childhood companions at the overnight wake held at their Calle Ocampo home following his death.

 

Donna Louise French

pg12c copyChapala resident Donna Louise French died January 21 at the age of 74.

Born April 28, 1949, in central California to Leslie and Elizabeth Allen, Donna attended David Starr Jordan High School in Long Beach, California and graduated with honors.  She went on to a career in nursing and later became a leading authority in addiction medicine as the executive director of Operation Breakthrough in Big Bear, California.

Donna was married to the love of her life Robert “Bob” King French from 1989 to his passing in 2017.  They lived in Long Beach, moved to Big Bear, and finally retired in Atacama, Mexico, a place they loved very much.  After Bob’s passing, she decided to sell her home and move to Chapala, where she met and fell in love with a wonderful community of caring people.  She talked about and shared pictures of those she shared stories.

Donna is survived by her son Marc and his wife Michelle, along with three grandchildren Ben, Victoria, and Lauren, her brother David, and cousins Nick, Shelly, and Sean.

Donna had so many friends it would be impossible to list even a fraction of them.  She touched people’s lives by the thousands during her work in addiction recovery and saved countless souls from a life of addiction.  Above all else, she was most proud of the work she did in this area.

Donna was a lifelong lover of animals and left behind her beloved dogs who were placed in a wonderful home just as she would have wanted them to be.

Donna always chose a life path that was challenging and never backed down from the hardships that it would bring her way.  She was incredibly spiritual and did not fear death as she knew it was only the next step in her adventure.

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