Alicia Sama Rodriguez

Alicia Sama Rodriguez, age 79, of Boulder, CO, died peacefully at home on December 19, 2022. Alicia loved literature, art, theater, music, and travel, and was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, community member, and friend.

Alicia is survived by her husband of 58 years, Juan, her four children, Juan and wife Paige of Louisville CO, Diego and wife Helen of Palo Alto CA, Silvia and husband John of Boulder CO, Carlos and wife Vera of Haverford PA, her brother Valentín Sama López-Aranda of Madrid, and 12 grandchildren: Andrew, Calder, Gavin, Milena, Aurelia, Isabel, Silvia, Adrian, Eva, Emilia, Iris, and Linden.

Alicia Sama López-Aranda was born on April 17, 1943, at the Clínica Santa Alicia in Madrid. Her mother Julita thought the nurses there were extremely caring, and loved the clinic’s name, so she gave it to her daughter. Julita herself had been a nurse during the Spanish Civil War. Alicia’s father Valentin served as a Secretary of the Court in the Spanish judicial system. Both parents came from families who were accomplished professionally — many ancestors were doctors and lawyers — and extremely passionate intellectually; her maternal great-grandfather was Arturo Soria y Mata, whose innovative urban planning manifestos profoundly influenced (among many) the designs of Stanford University and Duke University — places whose threads would be woven through the lives of many of her family members.

Alicia grew up in various towns and cities across Spain, including Madridejos, Alicante, and San Sebastián. Her father began his career in smaller courts and with experience and success was granted more responsibilities, each promotion requiring a change of locale. A age nine, Alicia and family (she was now sister to a brother, Valentin) settled in her beloved San Sebastián. It was a wonderful, beautiful place to grow up and had a formative influence on her approach to life. Their home was a flat by the River Urumea; they could see the Bay of Biscay from their windows, and the beach of La Concha was but a 15 minute walk away. Alicia and her brother attended a bilingual German-Spanish school, commuting there by school bus (with an occasional adventure walking in the rain). In the Spanish way, they would come home in the early afternoon for dinner with their family, and then return to school. How Alicia relished a tasty croqueta! She delighted in walking everywhere, to the park to play with her brother and friends, to the hills for excursions in nature, to the fisherman’s port to watch the fishing boats arrive to be unloaded — on those days they knew they would have fresh tuna for dinner the next afternoon. Her parents enjoyed visiting nearby Biarritz, where Alicia would practice her French. Summers were idyllic, with mornings at the beach and afternoons hiking in the hills above the city. At age 17, Alicia matriculated in the five-year course at the venerable Universidad Complutense de Madrid, one of the oldest continuously operating institutions in the world. There she received her Licenciada en Filosofía y Letras, Germanística. Though her studies were rigorous, she reveled in the art, architecture, and culture of Madrid, and looked forward to spending a spare hour soaking in the luminous paintings of the Museo Sorolla. While at the university she completed her mandatory six months of Servicio Social, helping people in need.

Alicia met her future husband Juan in 1959 when his family came to San Sebastián as part of their first homecoming to Spain from New York, where they had eventually settled in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The Sama and Rodriguez families had many points of connection before the war started, and in fact Alicia’s and Juan’s fathers were good friends. Juan was sitting on the floor of their flat working on an electric train set with Alicia’s younger brother when she walked into the room, and the rest was history! In an era before instant telecommunications, the two embarked on a correspondence via air mail, punctuated by yearly summer visits by Juan when he had time off of college and his job as a lifeguard at Rockaway Beach, New York. This was no run-of-the-mill love — everyone around them thought their dedication to each other was just the most romantic thing they had ever witnessed! Several years later in a letter to Juan, Alicia suggested that they get engaged, so Juan provided almost all of his savings so that she and her mother could buy a ring in Spain. They were married at the Basilica Santa Engracia in Zaragoza on July 23, 1964. After their nuptials they resided in Poughkeepsie NY where Juan was working as an electrical engineer for IBM. In doing so Alicia left behind everything and everyone she knew to move to a place where she had no social network, no family other than Juan, and would have to teach herself to speak English and to navigate life in the United States. In the meantime she studied to complete her university degree and, shortly after giving birth to their first son Juan, returned to Madrid to complete a battery of incredibly tough, pass-fail exams. Her move to the US was emblematic of so many aspects of Alicia’s character: her deep inner strength, her abiding curiosity about the world, and her unquenchable desire to experience life to its fullest.

As the saying goes, IBM stands for “I’m Being Moved”. Juan and Alicia were transferred to Boulder by the company to open its new facilities there in June of 1966. When they arrived, 30th Street was still a small dirt road, but in Boulder Alicia found a place where she could live a good life: a town which, while quite different at a surface level, in many ways evoked the effervescent physical and cultural dynamism of her native San Sebastián. Boulder became home, and it was here that she built her life and raised her four children. In her daily interactions with people, Alicia strove to be kind, thoughtful, and helpful to everyone. Generous, caring, and deeply empathic, Alicia contributed her time and energy to school and community events around Boulder. Whether it was carting a huge load of library books in her green Chevy Suburban to Burke Elementary, supplying sliced oranges to youth soccer games, or attending every piano recital, choir concert, theater performance, jazz band event, swim team meet, or music lesson her kids and grandchildren participated in, Alicia made the effort to show up in full force. Some called her dedication as a mother superhuman, and it went beyond Boulder — though her children ended up settling in places as far-flung as Boston, Palo Alto, and Philadelphia, she was present at the birth of all twelve of her grandchildren, always ready to provide support and love. And to pitch in with hard work. On top of all these family and community obligations, she was instrumental in the success of her husband Juan’s various entrepreneurial ventures. Her patient counsel and steadfast encouragement made all the difference in his professional success. They made a powerful team.

Alicia never stopped being that young student who would seek out inspiration in an oasis of Sorolla paintings. She believed that learning and culture were invaluable pursuits, and that was why she was a fixture at the Boulder Philharmonic, the CU Artist Series, the CU Shakespeare Festival, Bach Festival, Opera Colorado, the Colorado Music Festival at Chautauqua, the Boulder Dinner Theatre, Denver Art Museum, and her beloved Takács Quartet. Above all, she was entranced by literature and took great pleasure in books and reading. Drawing on her immense cultural knowledge, and motivated by empathy, Alicia delighted in recommending the perfect book for someone, especially children. Curious, patient, brave, and passionate, she helped everyone she touched learn to love art, literature, music, theater and culture. She taught us by example how to live on the right side of our brains, and to always trust our hearts.

May her memory be a blessing and inspiration to all those who strive to create a more beautiful world, and who bravely embark on grand adventures that lead them to unknown places and new experiences, to be navigated with dignity, strength, and elegance.

A Funeral Mass and the Committal were held for Alicia on December 21, 2022. To honor her love of the arts, donations in Alicia’s memory may be made to Opera Colorado.