Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

The Zac Brown Band has a great song out, called “My Old Man.” It really resonates with me and brings back a flood of memories of my “Old Man.”

As a child, I looked up to my Dad. I sometimes wished I had an older brother to teach me the ropes. But the reality is my Dad prepared me for the challenges that lay ahead. He’s still teaching me.

I’ve always appreciated what he did for my brother and me. Baseball was everything to us growing up. I can still smell the oil we applied to our leather baseball gloves before sticking a baseball inside and wrapping them with one of my Dad’s old belts. That was how we would break in new gloves, especially catcher’s mitts, for the new season. Who else teaches you that, but your father?

I can picture my Dad in the garage, spray-painting batting helmets, then stuffing them into the green Army duffle bags that held our equipment. When All-Stars came around, he produced majestic helmets with and with “NVLL” on the front – for North Valley Little League. We didn’t have the resources of other leagues, but my Dad made sure we were proud to represent NVLL when we stepped onto the field.

I can’t imagine how many hours he spent at those little league fields, which sadly, no longer exist. He would tie a piece of chain-link fencing to the back of his white Ford pickup and drag it across the dirt on the fields. He did this every single night after games finished. Many nights and especially on Saturday’s, he and some other Dads parked their pickups beyond left field. They had their coolers full of beer to reward their hard work. Even after playing full games, and after dusk had settled in, my friends and I would play Homerun Derby, and make my Dad throw balls back into the field. More often than not, my Mom would have to come and pick us up.

My Dad worked most of his career Downtown, ironically, across the street from where I am working now. He usually took the bus to work along 4th Street from our home in Los Ranchos. He also traveled a lot, mostly driving throughout New Mexico, helping small, rural communities get infrastructure for water and wastewater. He still travels those roads, working part-time for an engineering firm. I bet there isn’t a community he hasn’t visited, and a diner he hasn’t frequented. Whenever I go somewhere for the first time, I usually check with him to ask about the best place to eat.

Although I’m not sure my Dad will ever fully retire, he has slowed down, and has taken the time to appreciate his five grandchildren. I feel bad because I know one of the reasons he still works is so he can spoil those grandchildren. I’ve never had a problem with that because he loves spending time with them, and he has devoted his life to providing for his family.

I hope Dad knows I’ve learned many lessons from him. I’m still learning. The most important lesson is pass on what I’ve learned to my own children.

As the Zac Brown song reminds me: “I hope he’s proud of who I am. I’m trying to fill the boots of my old man.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

El Corrido de LA

My Great-Uncle Eloy Gallegos was just 28 years old when he was killed in action – an early casualty when the U.S. entered World War II. He hadn’t started a family of his own when he joined the Army, so he didn’t leave behind any sort of family legacy, except for his name, which was passed along as a middle name to my father, and then to me.

At least that’s what I thought. Apparently Uncle Eloy was a musician. Not only that, he used his talent to chronicle his time during a famous military exercise prior to the start of the war.

Thanks to my cousin, Barbara Gallegos, a fellow genealogist and Eloy’s niece, we have a copy of a corrido that Eloy co-wrote with two buddies as they participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941.

Eloy Gallegos (date unknown)

Finding any record of the military service of my uncles and my grandfather is special. But a corrido is especially appropriate for soldiers from New Mexico. Corridos -- narrative folk songs -- are typically identified with Mexican or borderland culture and history. They developed in New Mexico and around the lower Rio Grande Valley in the 1800s, although they originate from earlier Spanish narratives known as the romance, according to Chicano Folklore: A Guide to the Folktales, Traditions, Rituals and Religious Practices of Mexican-Americans.

My Gallegos uncles, Eloy and Clemente, and my Grandpa Carlos Gallegos, all from Las Vegas, served in the New Mexico National Guard in the late 1930s. They served in the 45th Infantry Division when it was ordered into federal served in September 1940 to train for a year as a result of the war that was developing in Europe.

At the end of a year of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the 45th, known as the Thunderbirds, traveled in August 1941 to Louisiana as part of a massive training exercise – the largest ever, involving more than 400,000 American soldiers – to assess the military’s capabilities and prepare for possible war.

Private Eloy Gallegos and his buddies captured their experience in a narrative they called, “El Corrido de LA,” which starts with their departure from Fort Sill on Aug. 4 and the arrival at a military camp near Pitkin, Louisiana on Aug. 5. No, doubt, the swamps of western Louisiana were a far cry from the high mountains of northern New Mexico. Worse, the soldiers were forced to endure “hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, and bloodthirsty mosquitos,” according to a history of the 45th Infantry Division, titled, “The Rock of Anzio.”

The bad weather is a constant theme in the corrido, so much so, the soldier/musicians are reminded of a famous New Mexico flood that was immortalized in the corridor of San Marcial. But the soldiers believed the Louisiana storm was worse.

According to the history of the 45th, “The rain and mud were so bad, in fact, that the ground was covered with crayfish digging their nests in the open, and because so many vehicles were mired in the muck, the Army cancelled much of the first week of maneuvers.”

The version of the corridor (above) that my cousin Barbara had was typed and had her father, Clemente’s name handwritten on it. The three typed names are the authors of the corrido: Eloy Gallegos, Phil Ortiz and Louis Madrid.

Here is a translation of the corrido by my friend, Juan:


The day of August 4th
I would like to forget
We departed to Louisiana
To a military camp

In the afternoon of the fifth
I remember that date
In the small square of Pitkin
People were expecting us

When we got off the train
Everyone was in awe
To see seventy thousand
Officers and soldiers

On the sixth, during the day
We were all drenched in sweat
We noticed how different
And harsh that hot weather was

The following day in the morning
When we set out to march
We got caught in a terrible rain storm
We felt like we would drown
Three days later
We couldn’t even walk
We were about to use the boats
In order to survive

You may remember
The corrido of San Marcial
This was even worse
You can’t even compare

We worked like slaves
Repairing the camp
But even so
The suffering wouldn’t end
Once we had it repaired
And we were able to go outside
We were stuck by an outbreak
That made us want to die

Those of us who remained healthy
All wanted to cry
From seeing our brothers in arms
Going to the hospital

Finally, on the sixteenth
We departed for combat
Against a blue front
That wouldn’t surrender

We departed with four squadrons
To blow up all access points
And begin the fighting
In that much-touted battle

When the fighting started
We were struck by bad luck
Our dear Lieutenant Philipe
And his men got lost

Sergeant Joe Gallegos
Rounded up only ten men
To search for the Lieutenant
Who went missing in the forrest

Once we found them
They felt very relieved
Thanking us many times
For being such good soldiers

Captain Whipple too
Complimented us
Knowing that every soldier
Carried out their duties

Happy with the accolades
That we received from our commanders
We heard the news
That three more had gone missing

We went out searching
Day and night without stop
Out in the battle line
That’s where we found them

We joined the battle
With joy and excitement
After 12 hours
Our ammunition was gone

We kept fighting
By God I swear to you, brother
We came so close
That we fought head to head

To be able to advance
We didn’t use light
The only light that lit us
Was the moonshine

It was on a Tuesday, I know
In the wee hours of the morning
All the reserve troops
Were called to the front

We had such good luck
Perhaps that’s how God wanted it
When we arrived to the front
The armistice was signed

After it was signed
We were all happy
And we went back
To our camp

Back in the camp
They made us prepare
To go back
To our sweet home

On August twenty three
At six O’clock in the morning
We said goodbye to that place
And to the State of Louisiana

45th Division
You don’t know how to surrender
Dedicating these verses to you
We say farewell

Included among us
I also want to acknowledge
Lieutenant Gallegos
For being such a good officer

These verses have been written
By three very good soldiers
If you want to know their names
They are signed below

Eloy Gallegos
Phil Ortiz
Louis Madrid

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Uncle Eloy's Headstone

The web site has added new WWII military records from the New Mexico State Archives. I was disappointed that I didn’t find anything new for my Grandpa Carlos; but I did come across an interesting record related to my Great-Uncle Eloy Gallegos, who died in Italy in the early days of the war.

I discovered the application for Uncle Eloy’s headstone. He was killed in action as the 120th Engineering Company invaded Sicily in 1943 to take on German troops. I’ve never been quite clear about when exactly he died, where and how. A Gallegos cousin – the daughter of another Great-Uncle, Clemente Gallegos, told me her Dad was with Eloy when he was shot in an olive field in Sicily. But I haven’t come across any records that provide details.

Based on newspaper articles in the Las Vegas Optic, my Great-Grandparents, Luis and Victoria Gallegos, were notified Sept. 10, that their son, Eloy Gallegos, was missing in action. He was previously reported as missing in action, according to the newspaper article.

I assumed Eloy must have been killed in August. But I now have two military records that list July 10, 1943 as his date of death. The “Final statement” of his military record that summarized how much money was owed to him. That record stated he was killed in action on July 10, 1943, although the record was stamped August 1943.
Eloy Gallegos
Now, I have the application for his military headstone, which also cites July 10, 1943, as his date of death. His father, Luis, signed the application on Aug. 11, 1948, which requested that the headstone be shipped to St. Anthony Cemetery in Las Vegas.

Why does the date matter? If he died on July 10, that means he perished only a few days after the allied invasion of Sicily. Eloy and his brother, Clemente, had fought in North Africa, and they were part of the invasion into Siciliy – a year before the D-Day invasion at Normandy. As members of an engineering company, the 120th were on the front lines rebuilding bridges that were destroying by fleeing German and Italian troops.

When I found the application for his headstone, it reminded me that I had not been able to find the actual headstone during two previous trips to St. Anthony’s Cemetery. I went back today, during a trip with my family to Las Vegas and El Porvenir, and I finally found Uncle Eloy’s headstone. It wasn’t quite as near his parent’s burial plot, which is what I was told by another relative. But I found it. I was relieved to finally find it. My middle name, Eloy, comes from Uncle Eloy, which makes me proud.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Uncle Joe DeTevis

Just a month before I was hoping to visit my Great-Uncle Joe DeTevis in Seattle, the younger brother of my late Grandma Rise passed away following a short battle with cancer.
Joe DeTevis 
I’m glad he’s not suffering more. But I really hoped to see him during an upcoming vacation we have planned.

When my Dad reminded me that his Uncle Joe was living in Seattle with his daughter, Jeannette, the wheels in my mind started spinning. Uncle Joe had done some genealogy research once upon a time. He was the one member of the family who kept in touch with everyone else. And he was great at writing and documenting photos he sent periodically to family members.

I would have loved an hour or two with Uncle Joe to hear his stories. I had not seen him in decades. I received cards from him for special occasions, including his water-color paintings he sent to family. I know I received one for our wedding in 1996, but I wish I knew where it was. I did find one painting from 2001.

In addition to the desire to talk to Uncle Joe, I also had a request I wanted to run by him. I wanted to ask him if he was willing to participate in a genetic DNA study. He was one of the last DeTevis men descending from his father, Antonio DeTevis.

My DeTevis roots descend from the Azore Islands, part of Portugal, in the early 1800s. My Great-Grandfather spoke Portuguese, and there is little doubt that the history is accurate. But I wanted to know the DNA of the DeTevis family.

When I found out a few months ago that Uncle Joe was sick, I decided not to pursue the DNA test. I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But I still hoped to visit him. Unfortunately, he died while in hospice last week. My Dad had the opportunity to talk to him and say goodbye about 30 minutes before he passed away.

Ironically, I received a photo of Uncle Joe and Jeannette from another cousin in California with whom I was trading e-mails about the DeTevis family. That cousin, Ceferino Ahuero, contacted me the day before. As we traded e-mails, I was pleasantly surprised to get some photos of Uncle Joe. Later that evening, my Dad told me about Uncle Joe’s passing. When I passed the information to Cef, he pointed out that he has received similar news all too often about relatives.

I believe the last time I heard from Uncle Joe was a phone call he made to me when I worked in the Governor’s Office in Santa Fe. He called to tell me his grandson was working at Tomasita’s Restaurant. Apparently Uncle Joe’s daughter, Jeannette, is married into the family that owns the popular Santa Fe restaurant. I promised to do so, and figured it was an easy promise to keep since my wife loves to eat at Tomasita’s. But I never made it, which I now regret.

I did meet two of Uncle Joe’s grandsons a few years later when my Grandma Rise – Joe’s sister – died in Albuquerque. They attended the funeral. I understand one is in the Air Force, and the other lives in Seattle.

While I had not seen Uncle Joe for many years, I’d like to assume he lived a happy life. At least he always seemed happy from the photos and letters he shared. His wife, Ruth Nuthall, was a native of Sweden. She died in 2010 in Uvalde, TX, where they lived for many years. Uncle Joe and Aunt Ruth were married in 1959 in Modesto, CA.

Uncle Joe was born Jose Domingo DeTevis in Las Vegas in 1929 as the son of Antonio DeTevis and Emilia Alires. I assume he was named after Emilia’s father, Domingo Alires.
Joe DeTevis
Like his older brother, Joe served in the military – in the late 1940s and early 1950s during the Korean War. My Dad recalled his Uncle Joe working as a military journalist in Europe during the war. Perhaps that’s what motivated him to write, photograph and chronicle his comings and goings in his 60 years after the war.

I found a notice in the Las Vegas Optic that mentioned Joe was spending his furlough in his hometown.
Jeannette with her father, Joe DeTevis 2015
My Dad also remembers that Joe worked as a radio announcer at KFUN during college, where he earned his degree in art. He moved to Iowa and worked as a high school art teacher. He later taught in Visalia, CA, where he met his future wife, Ruth, who was working as a nurse. They had one daughter, Jeannette, and moved to Carrizozo, NM, where he also taught art. That’s where I remember getting cards and photos from him. After he retired, he and Aunt Ruth moved to Uvalde, TX, where Aunt Ruth died in 2010. Joe’s sister, Jane, helped move him to Seattle after that, where he stayed with his daughter.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day
Sunday, May 9, 2015

I knew from a pretty early age not to take my Mom for granted. One of my best friends came from a broken family, and while I’m sure he loved his own mother, he could always count on two surrogate families, including my Mom, to be there for him. That was probably one of the best lessons I could have learned growing up. And yet, while I feel like I’m a pretty good Dad, I don’t think I could ever measure up to my Mom’s compassion toward others. The key, though, is to love your children unconditionally, and that’s something I learned from both of my parents.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I realize I had not really focussed on my Mom’s family history. I’m not necessarily talking about her paternal Chavez genealogy or her maternal Gallegos genealogy. I’m talking about her childhood in Grants, traveling to California each summer to visit family, and her upbringing in Albuquerque.

My Mom is Beatrice (Chavez) Gallegos. She was the middle child of five, born to Louis Chavez and Lola (Gallegos). She was born in Grants and named after her great-grandmother Beatriz Jaramillo. She had an older sister, Fran, who passed away after a battle with cancer, and has three brothers, Louis, Jr., Mike and Ralph.
Grandma Lola, my Mom (Bea) and Aunt Fran
The family moved to Albuquerque when Mom was in elementary school. They first lived on High Street, south of the street that is now Avenida Cesar Chavez. Her grandparents, Pablo Gallegos and Maria (Arellanes) lived nearby on the other side of Broadway. My Mom remembered her Grandpa Pablo carrying her on his shoulders from his house to her house. She also recalled how they had one phone line for a cluster of homes, and they would have to walk to where the phone was located to take a call.

I found a photo from about 1950 of my Mom’s Grandpa Pablo with other men preparing a pig for a matanza. My Mom is pretty sure that was at their property on High Street.

My Mom attended John Marshall School, which was across the street from her home. She was looking forward to attending Lincoln Junior High, where her cousins went to school and bragged about the dances and good times. But her parents moved the family to a new subdivision and a new home at 6804 5th Street N.W., which is the house where I grew up in the North Valley, in Los Ranchos.

As a child, my Mom looked forward to summer trips to Los Angeles to visit relatives. Her father, my Grandpa Louis, packed everyone in the car, which didn’t have air conditioning, and made the long drive to Los Angeles to see his own mother, Eliza, and his brother, Lalo. My Mom wasn’t very close to her Grandma Eliza, who was bitter about my Grandpa moving with my Grandma Lola back to New Mexico. But my Mom enjoyed the summer visits. One of my favorite photos is a black and white of my Mom as a young girl walking with her Dad.

When my Mom moved to the home on 5th Street, she shared a small room with her other Grandma, Maria, who was widowed by that time in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My Mom finished grade school at Los Ranchos, then went to Taft Junior High and later to Valley High School – the same schools I would attend a generation later. She graduated from Valley in 1965, which means she will celebrate her 50th reunion this year.  She remembers the day she was pulled out of school the day her mother gave birth to her youngest brother, Ralph.

After high school, my Mom was supposed to go to Eastern New Mexico University in Silver City. I only recently learned that her Aunt Perla had encouraged her to go there. But she ended up going to work for the phone company in Albuquerque, which is where she was working when she met my Dad, Gilbert Sr., on a blind date.

It didn’t take long before she and my Dad got married in 1968. After I was born in Albuquerque, we moved to San Jose, CA, for my Dad’s work. That’s where my brother, Jon, was born. We moved back to Albuquerque for short time before my Dad’s work took us to Cincinnati. My Dad moved to Cincinnati first, and my Mom took my brother and me a few months later. I recently found a pretty amazing letter from my Dad to my Mom during that time period. He was having a tough time being away from my Mom and us.

We moved back to Albuquerque by the time I started Kindergarten at Los Ranchos. And we were back at the house where my Mom spent much of her childhood. I have great memories of my parents bowling with our neighbors, the Baca’s, at Valley Bowl. Their team was called the BG’s – for Baca’s/Gallegos’. That’s about the same time my Mom started working as a teacher’s aide at Los Ranchos.

I remember my brother and I sitting on the edge of my Mom’s bed most afternoons, talking to her about our day. During baseball season, most evenings and every Saturday were spent at North Valley Little League. If my Dad wasn’t coaching, he was getting the fields ready or dealing with equipment issues, while my Mom was working in the concession stand or keeping score. It was a home away from home. As a parent now, I realize how much work that must have been for both of my parents, albeit a labor of love. But as a kid, that little league field was the only place I’d ever want to be. To me, that was family time.

My Mom would work for Albuquerque Public Schools for the rest of the time my brother and I were in school. I remember going to her office at a few different administration buildings to use her work computer for my school work. I think her last job at APS was at Albuquerque High School. She was able to pull some strings and open the gym for me to play basketball every Saturday. By that time, I was working as a reporter at the Albuquerque Tribune. Several of my colleagues, as well as a couple of competitors from the Journal and the Associated Press played in a county basketball league. And we practiced at the AHS gym.

Early during my career as a reporter, I was sent to Arizona to get the story behind a murderer who kidnapped and killed an Albuquerque teen-ager. It was a gruesome and troubling story. In any case, I had to take a bus back to Albuquerque from Flagstaff. I’m not sure I ever told my Mom this story, but during that long ride home, as I thought about the death of that young boy, my mind turned to the recent death of one of my Mom’s close friends, Connie Delgado. I decided to write about my Mom, her friendship with Connie, and how much I appreciated everything she ever did for me. I don’t think I finished the letter, and for some reason, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t want to give her a half-written letter, but it was difficult to go back and finish it. I regret not finishing it. I’ve gone back through my things since then, hoping to find it. But I never did.

Well, Mom, consider this as a heartfelt substitute for that letter I wrote on the bus some 20 years ago. We’ve had many more memories since then. And now those include great memories of you with your granddaughters, who I know appreciate and love you as much as I’ve always appreciated and love you.

I still think about how you would make me chicken, my favorite meal, before my many surgeries. And how Jon and I would come home from skiing and you had some hot caldito waiting for us. And you would get the grass and red clay stains out of my baseball pants, and sew my uniform after my Pete Rose slides. And how you would embarrass us from the stands during baseball games, but secretly, we appreciated knowing our biggest fan was always there to cheer us on. And how you never minded our friends letting themselves in the front door and heading straight to the refrigerator or pantry, knowing you would always have snacks for them. And for allowing me to make mistakes, as a child and as an adult, but still being my Mom, who is the most understanding and forgiving Mom anyone could have. And now I am especially appreciative of how you do all of the same things for your granddaughters, including taking them and their friends to the movies, lunches, Target, the orthodontist, Bahama Bucks, and going to more than your share of soccer practices, games and tournaments. You do all this, and still find time to watch your San Francisco Giants play on TV, make it to La Cueva baseball games, go with your friends to movies, and keep up with your plants and flowers.

Happy Mother’s Day!