BELEN — Shawn Ammons may not have been born and raised in Belen, but there is no doubt he was a “Favorite Son” of the Hub City.
“I’m from Belen, but he knew more people than me,” proclaimed his widow, Jessica, several days after Shawn collapsed and died at the age of 53.
“I don’t even know how many messages I have gotten. I can’t even text back,” Jessica said. “There are so many people saying ‘oh my God, he was the best guy.’”
How did a guy from Albuquerque, a graduate of Valley High School, become an inspiration to many in Belen? After first meeting on a night out in the Duke City, the two eventually married, settled in Belen and raised a family. Shawn immediately immersed himself in his adopted hometown.
“Shawn was an asset to the community,” said Belen Consolidated Schools Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez. “Shawn loved working with kids and loved introducing kids to sports. He knew the positive impact sports could have on a student’s life.”
Sanchez knew Shawn for 25 years, first as a football coach at Belen Middle School, and then at Belen High School, where he was an assistant coach in football and baseball.
That’s where he worked with Steven Contreras, now the BHS athletic director, who described Ammons as “committed and hardworking — more importantly he was a loyal and devoted family man. He was a good friend and will be missed dearly.”
With his love of sports and children, it was a natural transition for Shawn when he started working in 2018 for the city of Belen Parks and Recreation Department. As sports coordinator, he developed and ran many programs, drawing praise from Mayor Robert Noblin.
“He was a friend to many and a role model to countless youth in the community, making the Eagle Park Rec Center a place of fun and refuge,” Noblin said.
Jessica said Shawn would Facebook Live some of the events.
“He loved the camera because he loved showing those dimples,” his wife said.
At the center, Shawn worked with Martha Bucknam, known as “the lady who works the front desk.” If a colleague had a problem, “You could always come to Shawn. He always figured it out,” an emotional Bucknam shared.
She described Shawn as easy to talk with, and always a smile on his face. If a parent couldn’t afford a fee for an activity, Shawn would seek sponsors to cover the cost.
“He was always working with parents so their kids could succeed,” she said. “If your kid was there at the community center, you knew that they would be taken care of.”
All this kindness from a “big teddy bear,” as Jessica described him. “He was the most loving father, the most loving husband — just the best, most amazing man ever.”
Jessica said Shawn, nicknamed “Shawngo” by friends, was concerned about everyone and was something of the family doctor.
“If any of my kids got sick, they would all go to him, not me,” Jessica said. “He always knew just what to give them.”
However, Shawn had his own health problems, primarily epilepsy. He began to experience an increasing number of seizures, including one in March that put him on life-support.
While the health concerns lingered, Shawn was soon back at work and back in the community, throwing out the first pitch at opening day of Belen Little League. Back planning his future while continuing his passions, like hunting.
He organized a family hunting trip for November, plotting all the details.
“He was so excited for it,” Jessica recalled. “He went out and bought a new tractor-trailer. He couldn’t wait.”
But on Friday, Oct. 6, Shawn collapsed at Belen Community Center and died. Jessica says no official cause of death has been determined.
Shawn leaves behind Jessica, whom he met in 1990 and married in 2000; children, Devon, Haley, Brandon, Martin, Jordan, Chantel and Hannah; and granddaughter, Emmie Rose.
Also left are the memories and his impact.
“I will miss the positivity that he brought to all aspects of his life,” Sanchez said. “He was an all-around great person.”
Noblin will remember Shawn’s “loud personality and contagious smile, as well as his leadership and guidance with his coworkers and youth.”
“Shawn was all about kids — he loved his own kids more than life itself,” Bucknam said.
In honor of Shawn, the Belen Community Center is closed this week.
Jessica is already missing “his personality. He was always joking.”
Shawn’s personality and passion for the Las Vegas Raiders football team will be part of his Funeral Mass, which will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church.
“Everything is going to be in black and silver,” the Raiders team colors, explained Jessica. “He loved the Raiders. We went to the Raiders last year. He was so excited.”
The Raiders’ motto might be a fitting epitaph for Shawn: “Commitment to Excellence.”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.