Thomas Jacob Tafoya


Thomas Jacob Tafoya

Jake passed away comfortably and surrounded by family at UNM Hospital on May 25, 2022.

Thomas Jacob Tafoya was born on Dec. 21, 1952, in Belen, but everyone in this town only ever knew him as Jake. Some knew him as Mr. Tafoya, although he’d say that title belonged to his late father, Ross Tafoya. Some lucky few even knew him as Jake the Ripper — amateur wrestler — but back to that later.

He was the first of three children, followed by his sister, Mildred Tafoya, and brother, John Ray Tafoya. His surviving mother, Emma Tafoya, a woman with such strength and grace, now spends her days enjoying her children’s grandchildren.

Jake grew up in Belen attending elementary and Belen High School. After a short time at UNM, he joined BNSF Railroad as a switch-man in the yards. He moonlighted as a golf course marshal at Tierra Del Sol, pool shark at the local watering holes and fisherman at the actual watering holes.

For his kids, if you ever beat him in a game of pool, he would congratulate you and then let you know that was the last game you’d ever win, and then it really was.

This competitive edge had previously spilled into the wrestling ring, where the heel (bad guy) wrestling persona, “Jake the Ripper” was born. He performed in shows in Isleta and Albuquerque arenas over the span of a few years in the ’80s. His brother recounts a match in which he threw corn tortillas frisbee style into the crowd as part of his entrance while he wore a pancho and sombrero. He always aimed to mock and insult the crowd, and that did just the trick.

He was an avid fisherman; lakes, ponds, streams, ditches, boat, shore, tubes — you name it — he just loved to fish. He had two briefcases dedicated solely to tying flies; he just loved to fish.

You could always catch him throwing a matanza, going camping or planning a fishing trip with his buddies, Julio and Dennis. He always loved the outdoors.

He would retire from BNSF in 2013 after 30 years, finally giving himself more time to do what he loved — fish, cook and garden. He pickled everything, barbecued any kind of meat, or worked on whatever new building project he and Lee decided to tackle this year.

You would always get an excited, “ Alrighty! Look, dear!” if you went with an Improvement Depot gift card for the holidays. He also never met a dog he didn’t like. So much so, that he typically had a house full of ’em. Any phone call with him at the house was sure to include at least two dogs howling and a futile half-hearted, “That’s enough!” from him.

He leaves behind his dogs, Gabbie, Fiona, Ziva, Clay and Dude, and a cat named Shadow.

He is survived by his loving wife of 18 years, Lee Tafoya.

He left behind his lifelong collection of railroad memorabilia to be fought over amongst his three children, Eddie Tafoya (Vanessa), Katherine Tafoya (Joshua) and Christopher Tafoya (Katelin).

Thank you to the close family for taking care and being there for him during his last days. His grandkids, Eddie, Bryan, Sevin, Adrik, Zenaya and newly-born, Ramzi, would always be instrumental in harvesting carrots from his garden.

We are especially grateful to his grandson, Kristopher Apache, for helping him with whatever he needed through the years.

Dad asked that we not have any formal services for him as he was never one for that sort of thing. He even told us that if anything happened to him, that we could, “Just roll me down into the ditch!” Luckily, after he was told no, he settled on a small gathering with close friends and family to celebrate his memory and enjoy the many great things he left behind. We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers.

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