Our Founder’s Obit
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness the family of Samuel C. Lopez announces his passing. Mr. Lopez passed away peacefully on January 11, 2021 at his home.
He is predeceased by his parents Gladys and Juanito Lopez. Survived by his wife Teresa, his former wives Elsie and Madeline, son Samuel D. Lopez, Esq. and wife Mandy, daughter Samantha J. Bickman, husband George and son, Emmanuel E. Lopez. Grandchildren, Michael Bickman (Jessica), Justin Bickman, Jordan E. Lopez, Ashley and Arielle Lopez, Angelina and Paul Lopez, and great grandchildren, Giovanni Lopez and Landis Bickman.
Sam always made an effort to document important life moments as they happen and store this documentation for future generations. His accomplishments go beyond the norm. In 1977, he started United Third Bridge Inc. in New York to foster a spirit of brotherhood and patriotism encouraging and supporting the advancement of all minorities while promoting equality among all.
In 2020, we celebrated the 45th Anniversary of UTB a feat that all who knew him or he had helped knew how proud he was that UTB was still helping the community while promoting education, civil rights and diversity. Upon, moving to Melbourne, Florida he started the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which is held yearly in Palm Bay and is going on its 25th year. It has become the largest parade in Brevard County. Through UTB he partnered with Brevard School Board to engage kids in the arts instituting art contests and promoting music and chorus. He and Teresa started the Miss Puerto Rico Pageant and the Miss Latina Pageant to encourage young girls to get involved, learn to speak publicly and dress for success. He also founded Brevard County’s Annual Family Salsa Festival, which he brought many Puerto Rican artists and Salsa performers to our county and promoted cultural diversity.
He succeeded in naming Juan Ponce de Leon Park in Melbourne Beach, where today a statue stands representing the True Discovery of Florida; something that was dear to his heart to make sure History was corrected. He served on Brevard County’s Historical Commission and was honored by Col. Peck to hold all evidence proving that Melbourne Beach was the actual landing of Juan Ponce de Leon, hence the Discovery of Florida. Founder of The Juan Ponce de Leon Historical Landing Site “1513 The First Landing” Project in which the documentary will be filmed.
He was a force to be reckoned with when it came to Labor and inclusion. He advocated for minorities to be recruited and hired within the local Police Departments and government offices. He spearheaded relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria and advocated for the release and family unification of immigrant detainees.
In the efforts to promote Hispanic Businesses in Brevard County, he organized and started the only Hispanic chamber in the Space Coast. The Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce began as a means to promote local Hispanic Businesses with the focus on reaching everyone. For the past 18 years, he participated in the Hispanic Business Expo and connected the community with Hispanic Business owners and those that wanted to work with our community.
Sam was instrumental in organizing the Hispanic Community to bring Spanish Cable to Brevard. Sam was a champion when it came to politics, he worked diligently to get Hispanics registered to Vote, joined in the fight to get Ex-Felons their rights restored for them to Vote and his efforts not only helped Brevard County but reached out to all of Central Florida and eventually was bestowed the position of Chairman of the Hispanic Summit in Central Florida.
Sam loved his fruit and vegetable garden and most important sharing with his friends. He served God with all his heart, mind and soul. He will be missed.
Sam was laid to rest at Fountainhead Memorial Park, 7303 Babcock Street, S.E. Palm Bay, Florida.
Timeline of Samuel C. Lopez in the News
1994, Feb 27, pg. 8, Florida Today: Samuel C. Lopez wrote an opinion piece in the newspaper asking Brevard County Commissioners to appoint a Hispanic to a volunteer Brevard County Charter Study Committee. This was because its membership consisted of fourteen White and only one African American member.
1994, Apr 25, pg. 1D & 2D, Florida Today: Article states that as president of the Brevard County Political Action Committee, Samuel Lopez used his position to encourage local radio stations to play Latin American Music, especially Salsa.
1994, June 17, pg. 8, Florida Today: In this article, Samuel C. Lopez sent in an answer to an editorial question,” Should the US use military force to knock out North Korea’s Nuclear Facilities?” His answer was affirmative because he thought the North Korean government were hiding something by refusing an inspection of their nuclear facilities.
1995 Jan 11, pg. 3 & 5, Tampa Tribune: In this article, Sam C. Lopez also with members of the Farmworkers Association of Florida, was protesting outside a restaurant in Orlando in which a GOP advisor was proposing that the State of Florida deny public services to illegal Florida residents. California at the time had a similar proposition.
1996 May 13th, pg. 23, Florida Today: The article states that Samuel C. Lopez would be visiting the White House twice in the month of May to speak with President Clinton regarding issues effecting the American Hispanic population. He will also discuss how addressing these issues can influence Hispanic voting patterns, which can lead to his reelection.
1996 Dec 13th, pg. 14 Florida Today: In this article, Samuel C. Lopez sent in an answer to an editorial question, “How do you feel about people giving animals as holiday gifts?” His answer was that it was acceptable if the person receiving the gift is willing to become a pet owner.
1997 Dec 8th, pg. 15, Florida Today: This is a picture on this page of Samuel C. Lopez honoring three community leaders at a reception held just before the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade held in Palm Bay FL. Honored were, Puerto Rican Senator Anibal Marrero, Dr. Ramon S. Velez, and Luis DeRosa, president of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of South Florida.
1998, Jan 09, pg. 15, Florida Today: There is a picture on this page of Samuel C. Lopez speaking with Brevard County School Superintendent right after he got an award for being the Superintendent of the year in the State of Florida.
1998 Sept 13th, pg. 51, Orlando Sentinel: An article of this page announces the second annual Puerto Rican Day parade in Brevard County, which is being sponsored by United Third Bridge, Inc. All proceeds will be used for funding student scholarships at Brevard Community College.
1999, Sept 03, pg. 75, Florida Today: This article announces an upcoming Family Salsa Festival, which will include a Miss Puerto Rico of Brevard County pageant. The event was organized, produced, and hosted by United Third Bridge, Inc., which Samuel C. Lopez is the chairman of. The main goals of the festival are to raise scholarship money for Brevard County Community College students and help celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month.
2002, Oct 8, pg. 2B & 31, Florida Today: This article states that Samuel C. Lopez bought a building located on Aurora Rd. in Melbourne for the purpose of holding United Third Bridge, Inc., meetings in and can finally use his own garage for storing his cars again.
2002, Nov 1st, pg. 97, Florida Today: The article states that in honor of National Hispanic Heritage month, United Third Bridge, Inc., will host three events. One will be a Puerto Rican Day Parade, the second will be a banquet and they will also co-sponsor an open house business networking event at the new Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce located in Melbourne FL.
2003, Oct 22, pg. 29, Florida Today: The article states that Samuel C. Lopez of United Third Bridge, Inc., met with a total of fourteen schools in Brevard County to invite them to participate in that years Puerto Rican Day Parade.
2003, Dec 14, pg. 73, Florida Today: The article states thatSamuel C. Lopez of United Third Bridge, Inc., is founding a new television show named, “Latin Visions”, that will target Hispanic residents living in Brevard County. The goal of the show is to educate them regarding their civil rights and the role of Hispanics in politics.
2005, June 29th, pg. 85, Florida Today: The article states that as Chairman of the new Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce located in Melbourne FL., Samuel C. Lopez organized a Business Expo for the members of this chamber, which would occur soon.
2006, Oct 25, pg. 33 & 2G, Florida Today: The article announces the tenth annual Puerto Rico Day Gala in Viera FL on Nov 3rd, the fifth annual Hispanic Art Exhibit in Melbourne FL on Nov 4th, and the tenth annual Puerto Rico Day Parade in Palm Bay FL on Nov 5th. All three events were co-hosted by United Third Bridge Inc., and the Florida Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Inc., both located in Melbourne FL. Samuel C. Lopez founded and an is the chairman of both non-profits. One of the goals of these events is to help raise scholarship funds for Brevard Community College students.
2006, Nov 03, Pg 75, Florida Today: Two articles on this page, describe the itinerary of the upcoming Puerto Rican Day Gala & Parade. It also lists some of the performers, which will participate in the parade and a map of the parade route. More that thirteen thousand people are expected to attend this year.
2007, Apr 5, Pg. 33, Florida Today: The article names many community leaders that received awards at theFlorida Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Ponce de Leon Awards Banquet. The article also solicits donations for the purpose of building a Juan Ponce de Leon statute in Melbourne Beach and states that a local artist has been commissioned to build it.
2008, May 21, Pg. A1 & A3, Orlando Sentinel: This article describes an upcoming town hall in Kissimmee FL in which Barack Obama was expected to hold a political rally. Representatives from twelve Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce were expected to attend to discuss possible trade agreements between the US and Puerto Rico and discuss the environmental concerns in Vieques PR, caused by a US military base stationed there that was used for bombing exercises. Samuel C. Lopez was expected to attend along with other Brevard County leaders, as his chamber office received free admission tickets to give out to interested parties.
2009 Jan 03, pg. 36, Florida Today: This article announces the third annual Christmas/Three Kings Gala which was held on Saturday, Jan 3rd, 2009. The event will also include a Paranda, which is a Christmas Carol dance tradition in Puerto Rico. The Gala was hosted by United Third Bridge Inc., and attendees were asked to bring a toy and make a $35.00 donation.
2009 Aug 14th, pg. B005, The Palm Beach Post: The article states that Samuel C. Lopez traveled to Palm Beach to attend an event hosted by the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach. The event was to celebrate the swearing in of the first Puerto Rican Supreme Court Judge, Sonia Sotomajor. One hundred people attended the celebration.
2009 Aug 22, pg. 1B & 5B, Florida Today: This article describes a celebration of life gathering held at the Space Coast Stadium dedicated to the late Roberto Clemente Walker. At the end of this event, a bronze plaque was presented to honor his memory. The cost of the plaque was donated by United Third Bridge Inc., and the Florida Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Inc., both located in Melbourne FL.
During the tribute, Samuel C. Lopez proposed that the Space Coast Stadium should be renamed after Roberto Clemente Walker to honor his memory. Sadly, Mr. Walker’s widow was not able to attend the event. The article states that a Latin Salsa dance was held at the same stadium that evening. These events were co-hosted by the Florida Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Inc., and United Third Bridge Inc.
2009 Nov 7, pg. 23, Florida Today: This article announces the fifteen annual Puerto Rican Day Parade taking place on Sunday, Nov 8 in Palm Bay and the thirteen annual Puerto Rican Day Parade Gala occurring on Nov 6th at the Melbourne Hilton Hotel. The article notes that the proceeds of these events will fund scholarships for Brevard Community College students. Both events were co-hosted by the Florida Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Inc., and United Third Bridge Inc.
2010 Jul 16th, pg. B2, Orlando Sentinel: The article announces the fifteen annual Salsa Festival along with a Miss Puerto Rico pageant of Brevard County occurring on Sept 5th at noon at the Brevard Community College, Melbourne Campus. Interested parties are asked to contact Samuel C. Lopez for more information.
2013 Mar 28th, Pg. E8, Florida Today: The article announces some weekend activities hosted by United Third Bridge. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, March 28th, to formally introduce the Juan Ponce de Leon Landing Park, located on Melbourne Beach FL. On Saturday, March 30th, at 6 pm, there was a Juan Ponce de Leon Gala at the Melbourne Rialto hotel to celebrate Juan Ponce de Leon’s first landing in Melbourne Beach, FL. Proceeds from the Gala will benefit Brevard Community College students. On Tuesday, April 3rd, there was daylong event celebrating the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon’s landing in Melbourne Beach FL five hundred years ago. The schedule included a Catholic Mass at Immaculate Conception church, a presentation by the mayor of Santervás de Campos, which is a municipality in Spain where Juan Ponce de Leon was born, a reenactment of the Juan Ponce de Leon voyage and a ceremony to unveil the new fifteen-foot statute of Juan Ponce de Leon, located at Juan Ponce de Leon Landing Park. This statute cost $65,000 dollars and United Third bridge raised the money to fund it.
2013 March 31, pg. E1 & E3, Florida Today: This article highlights some of the causes that Samuel C. Lopez has lobbied for. In 2002, he proposed that DeLeon street in Titusville be renamed to Juan Ponce de Leon Street. In 2006, working with the South Brevard National Association for the Advancement of Colored People lobbied that Airport Boulevard in Melbourne by renamed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2006, he organized a protest in from of Dave Weldon’s office against immigration reforms. In 2006, he protested the City of Palm Bay’s policy of refusing to hire immigrants. In 2007, he sued the City of Palm Bay alleging that it discriminated against the annual Puerto Rican day parade held in that city. In 2008, he organized a protest in front of Rep. Ginny Brown White after she referred to Puerto Rican as foreign citizens. In 2009, he petitioned the school board to rename Heritage High School after Roberto Clemente Walker. Finally, in 2013, he designed the first license tag aimed for use by Hispanic Leaders. On the bottom of the tag it stated,” Hispanic Achievers”.
2014, Nov 3rd, pg. A3, Florida Today: The article has a few pictures of the Puerto Rican Day parade held in Palm Bay on Sunday. Nov.2. It states that the Florida Today website has more photos and even a video. Unfortunately, that webpage is no longer active.
2014, Nov 6th, pg. A12, Florida Today: This article has some pictures of the eighteen annual Puerto Rican day gala, which occurred on Friday Oct 31st at the Melbourne Hilton Rialto hotel.
2015, Oct 7th, Pg. A10, Florida Today: The article states that the nineteen annual Puerto Rican day parade took place on Sunday, Nov 8th in Palm Bay at noon.
2017, Sept 3rd, Pg. A9, Florida Today: The article states that the City of Palm Bay is becoming a popular destination for Puerto Ricans moving to mainland USA. During an interview with Samuel C. Lopez, he expressed that the influx of Puerto Ricans should influence the diversity of the workforce population in Brevard County as local employers hire the newcomers and influence local elections because Puerto Ricans tend to lean towards the Democratic Party
2017, Oct 11th, Pg. A22, Florida Today: In this article, Samuel C. Lopez’s letter to the editor got published. He urged that the City of Melbourne stop supporting city events that feature the Confederate flag because the designer of the flag was a known white supremist.
2019, Mar 2nd, Pg. A8, Florida Today: This article states that the 17th annual Hispanic Business Expo was held on March 9th ay noon at the Greater Palm Bay Senior Center. It was co-hosted by United Third Bridge and the Florida Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
2020, Jan 3rd, Pg. A3 and A6, Florida Today: This article states that United Third Bridge hosted along with Eastern Florida State College, the Seafarer Exploration Corp of Brevard and the Brevard County schools Adult Education Division, a Three Kings Day celebration to benefit the 285 Puerto Rican families who relocated to Brevard County after Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The article also names Margarita Chavez as the Director of the United Third Bridge Puerto Rico Relief Fund that assisted these families find jobs and housing in Brevard County.