Hipolito ‘Paul’ Mendez Jr., 77, lower valley legend and long-time community figure, businessman, educator, and artist passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. His legacy is a life of service to his community as a mentor, counselor, coach and motivator to hundreds of young people.
Paul was born on Dec. 8, 1942 in Eagle Pass, Texas, the first son of Hipolito & Herminia Mendez, née Menchaca; fourth generation Tejanos.
After graduating from Sunnyside High School in 1961, he served in the U.S. Navy as a radio operator, before returning stateside to pursue his passion for art by studying first at the Seattle Art Institute followed by sculpting in Los Angeles.
Upon his return to Sunnyside, Paul became a successful businessman, music promoter and Spanish radio broadcaster. At KREW Radio, he continued a tradition his mother pioneered in 1950, when she began the first Spanish radio broadcast in the Pacific Northwest.
Paul then built the Tropicana Dance Hall and for many years brought top name bands like Los Tigres del Norte to the Mexican community of Sunnyside and toured with the band throughout the U.S. and Mexico. In addition, he opened CASA Records in downtown Sunnyside and started ATM Productions.
His family’s contribution to the Mexican music heritage of the Pacific Northwest was best memorialized in a corrido by Ramon Ayala, after the untimely passing of his mother.
Notwithstanding his storied career in music, Paul was best known as an inspirational coach, teacher, and champion of youth engagement.
Affectionately known to many as ‘Big Paul,’ he mentored and coached hundreds of boys and girls in youth soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and the Boy Scouts. One of Paul’s proudest achievements was leading a team of “at-risk” youth at Sunnyside’s O.I.C. Alternative High School to three state basketball titles.
For years, Paul and his wife Paula were pillars in the community, compadres to many, and informal parents to generations of children. Always teachers at heart, they operated under the premise that it takes a village to raise a family and that with the right support and guidance, anyone could succeed.
Building on his time mentoring young people, Paul decided to change careers and returned to college to pursue a teaching degree. Upon graduation from Heritage University, Paul taught high school and middle school for several years at O.I.C and St. Joseph’s Catholic School, respectively. In 2004, Paul returned to business when he opened Aztlan Sportswear, a screen-printing shop in downtown Sunnyside. A business he often used to promote youth sports and to instill pride and positive Chicano identity through his original designs and artwork, until he retired in 2014.
A devoted husband, father and grandfather, Paul loved the company of family and enjoyed demonstrating his quick wit and engaging personality.
He will always be remembered by his children and grandchildren for his incredible storytelling and the songs he sang and played on his guitar. Like he did at KREW Radio many years ago, our giant and hero signed off for the last time on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020.
Paul is survived by his children, Tawnya Ibarra (Hector), Sheila Trevino, Tomas Reveles (Nancy), Hipolito ‘Paul’ Mendez III (Marla), Felipe Mendez (Maria), and Tony Mendez. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Joshua, Erik, Teryn, Isabella, Evan, Ava, Hipolito IV ‘Polo’ and Tomas, including numerous nieces and nephews.
Paul is further survived by his brothers, Rick Hernandez, Abel and Junior Mendez, and sister Ester Green.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents, sisters Magdalena and Teresa and his beloved wife Paula.
The Mendez Family wishes to acknowledge the love and support of Paul’s favorite niece Patsey Wiersma and the special friendship and kindness of Mando Esqueda.
A Memorial Service will be held at a later date when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Those wishing to sign Paul’s memorial book may do so at www.funeralhomesmith.com.
Smith Funeral Home is in care of arrangements.