John Reyna Tapia

Former Fort Lewis College professor and poetry editor of The Durango Herald John Reyna Tapia died of cardiac arrest Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012, in Phoenix. He was 90.

Mr. Tapia was born in 1922, in Ajo, Ariz., and was living in Prescott, Ariz.

After serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, Mr. Tapia married his elementary-school sweetheart, Bertha Alicia Velasco Cervantes, in 1942.

The couple lived in 45 homes in 30 countries during Mr. Tapia’s 22-year career in the Army. He retired with the rank of major.

Mr. Tapia served as an infantry rifleman in the European Theater during World War II. He fought at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge before going on to serve in Korea as the platoon leader of the 70th Tank Battalion Company. Mr. Tapia was awarded three Bronze Stars and seven Purple Hearts as well as more than 20 medals.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State College a Juris Doctor from the Blackstone School of Law and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Utah.

Before retiring from FLC in 1982, he taught at Western Michigan and Southern Illinois universities and at Yavapai College in Prescott. Mr. Tapia published several books of poetry and Hispanic folklore in English and Spanish.

He was awarded the Order of Don Quixote by Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.

Mr. Tapia served as the chairman of the Republican Party and he was inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Class of 2005. The Prescott Military Order of the Purple Heart 608 Meritorious voted to name the chapter in his honor, and he was an active charter member of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars as well as volunteering at the Bob Stump Veterans Administration Medical Center in Prescott.

In November 2007, the Prescott City Council honored Mr. Tapia with the Veteran John R. Tapia Hall of Fame Medal Recipient Appreciation Day.

Mr. Tapia is survived by his wife of 70 years, Bertha Alicia Velasco Cervantes Tapia, of Prescott; and numerous extended family members.

A memorial service with military honors will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, at the Veterans Administration Medical Center Chapel in Prescott. Visitation will begin at 12:45 p.m. before the service. Burial will take place at Arlington National Cemetery.

Those interested in participating in a brunch potluck reception in honor of Mr. Tapia may e-mail Leah Cargile at