This past Tuesday, Oct. 1, the good Lord looked down upon one of my dearest friends, Dawn Nunez, and said gently, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” At that moment the Lord called one of Harlan’s most beloved citizens home to rest after years and years of arduous labor and public service.
In 1971 when Dawn moved to our community, it is my understanding she was most unhappy and cried for a solid year. That changed, however, when she was encouraged to become active in the community. This of course encompassed her church, school and civic organizations, such as the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce, the Harlan County Humane Society and many others.
Dawn seemed to have a special calling to help others. She was short in stature but dynamic when participating in activities which included children and the needy in this community. Sometimes her fellow citizens disagreed with her. Dawn, however, stuck to her guns. With a vengeance, she saw to it that her suggestions to improve the lifestyle of our children, education and environment were at least considered important and many of her ideas became reality.
Dawn was a founder of the annual “County-Wide Way of the Cross” Easter celebration which strives to bring Christians of all denominations together to venerate Good Friday. She and her husband, Albino, enjoyed bringing a little bit of Louisiana to Harlan with the annual Holy Trinity Mardi Gras party. Dawn was a charter member of the “Higher Ground” theater group. These are only a pittance of activities to which she lent her knowledge, expertise, financial assistance and enthusiastic participation.
Dawn was a constant source of encouragement and help to Holy Trinity School. When it was rumored the school was going to close, she tried every way in the world to change the minds of the powers that be and persuade them to keep the school open. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful; however the facility was not abandoned. Thanks to Dawn and some others, the space is being used today as a preschool and afterschool tutoring center. Dawn simply would not let that property just sit vacant, go to waste and help no one.
Children in the area were thrilled for many, many years to see Dawn as Mrs. Claus riding atop a fire truck converted into Santa’s sleigh during the annual Christmas parade. When Dawn became ill and could not continue playing that role, her daughter, Laurie, stepped into the position and has delighted children ever since.
Dawn was overjoyed that all three of her children chose to reside in Harlan. She reveled in the accomplishments of her grandchildren, never missing a football game, band competition, choir performance or any other activity in which they participated. They were a tight family unit and added to the academic, religious and civic affairs of this city.
Dawn’s life was an inspiration to all who basked in the light of her outgoing personality, her delightful sense of humor, her willingness to help others, her love of children and most of all her deep religious beliefs. It may be trite to say “Gone, but not forgotten.” But, that is the truth and a fact. Dawn is gone from our daily lives but the impact she made on all of us will live on. Thankfully, Dawn’s children Laurie, Donell and Matt have inherited the spirit of their mother and will carry on those wonderful traditions she poured her heart into.