Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Eulogy for Grandma Rise

Thank you for being here and welcome to Risen Savior. Yvette, the girls and I attend the 9:30 Mass here every Sunday. During the past two years, we got in the habit of stopping by the nursing home after church to visit with Grandma Rise.

Grandma loved seeing people, and she especially loved seeing Carin and Isabella – even though she probably saw them during the week when then would go with their Papi to take her dinner or clean clothes.

Grandma was never in her room. If she wasn’t in the common area, we would usually find her in the dining room, drinking a cup of coffee with friends, or oftentimes, fast asleep. Grandma always knew we had just come from church, and the first thing she would say is how beautiful the girls looked. She never failed to complement their outfits – Carin was always fashionable, and she loved Bella’s bright dresses.

Our stories:

Natillas and bizcochitos – The only thing Grandma appreciated more than company was if you took her a meal with chile or her preferred snack at the time. Anything but the bland chicken that she swore was served at every meal.

You could never go wrong with bizcochitos, and my Dad always made sure she had a stash in her drawer. She hid the cookies, because the nurses would check her blood-sugar level. She would call my Dad to tell him the staff would be calling.

She also loved natillas. My mother-in-law, Neyda, made her some once, and Grandma always talked about that. I made her some another time, and when we took them to her, we found Grandma in her room with her hands in her drawer grabbing bizcochitos. She thought she was in trouble…she had crumbs all over her blouse and her pants…she was literally caught with her hands in the cookie jar.

Bag of Cheetos – Grandma also went through a phase where she was addicted to Cheetos and Goldfish crackers. She was so outgoing and made friend easily. During her Cheetos phase, she and a friend would sneak each other snacks or food that they weren’t supposed to eat. Sadly, just before her friend passed away, the friend asked her daughter to be sure to give Grandma Rise a bag of Cheetos and a few of her belongings, if she died. The daughter followed through with the request, and Grandma was touched by the gesture.

My wife, Yvette, told me this week that I really got close with Grandma during the past two years, and she asked me if this is the closest I have been with her. The answer is yes.

I hate to admit it, but I was always a little afraid of Las Vegas because of my experiences with loss and death as a child. I was only 11 years old – near the age of my daughters – when Grandpa Carlos died. Grandpa Tony and Grandma Emily died around that time, as well, and I remember how grief-stricken Grandma Rise was.

Now that I’m older, and looking back, I still can’t imagine what Grandma went through. And I regret that it took Grandma’s sudden move to Albuquerque for me to get closer to her.

I tend to believe that things happen for a reason. And I’m happy that we made the connection that we did. It’s never too late.

It’s also ironic that Grandma moved to Albuquerque not long after I started researching my family history. Grandma Rise was my last grandparent still live, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to her about her memories, and share many of the records that I found.

Grandma’s stories:

The dog and tripe – Probably my favorite story that Grandma liked to tell us, over and over, was about the time Grandpa Carlos was cleaning some tripe that he bought at the meat market for 50-cents. Grandma said it was cheap, but difficult to clean. Every little while Grandpa would go into the house and take a sip of beer. But just as he was about to finish, Grandma spotted a dog outside, as it grabbed the tripe and took off with it. Grandpa went chasing after it – calling it a name I can’t repeat here in church.

Dad the little dickens – Another story Grandma liked to repeat was about my Dad when he was a child. They were helping Grandma Emily paint at her house, when my Dad stuck his foot inside the paint bucket. She said Grandma Emily was so upset. As Grandma Rise and my Dad walked from the house, Grandpa Tony drove up and asked what happened. According to Grandma Rise, Grandpa Tony took pity on my Dad and everything was fine. But every time Grandma told us the story, she ended it by saying: “What a little dickens, your Dad.”

I could go on and on about the stories that Grandma shared with us. But I’ll end with this one. Grandma once told me that her own mother, Emilia, went straight to heaven because she cared for and raised so many children – especially the foster children who welcomed into the family. I have no doubt Grandma Emily is in Heaven. And I have doubt that Grandma Rise is also going straight to heaven. I’m going to miss her.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Daughter's Grief

I am Isabella Lucia Gallegos and I will tell about my Grandma Rise.
One Morning, I was playing my soccer game and when I got home my parents had to tell me something and they said our Grandma Rise Died at 5:00 today in the morning. I froze for a minute and my sister went to her room and then I did too. I sat on my chair and looked out my window and I kept thinking, She Didn’t Die Yes She Did NO SHE DIDN’T YES SHE DID! I went downstairs and sat with my mom and I kept asking questions about my Grandma Rise. Then I cried for a minute because I miss her and I said at least she will be with her husband, mom, and dad though and not with us. So now I always pray at night before I go to bed about her. Today is the day before we are going to my church Risen Savior and to Santa Fe to her rosary. I’m thinking I will cry softly at the funeral. I will really, super, definitely miss her for the rest of my life!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Grandma Rise's Obituary

Grucella Gallegos 1921-2013
GALLEGOS, GRUCELLA, 92, a longtime resident of Las Vegas, died peacefully in Albuquerque on April 20. She finally joins her beloved husband, Carlos Gallegos, who preceded her in death in 1980.

Grucella was born in January 1921 and baptized at Our Lady of Sorrows. She lived a happy childhood in Las Vegas as the third of 12 children born to the late Antonio DeTevis, who worked for the railroad, and Emilia Alires, who took in four foster children in addition to raising her own children. Grucella once said her mother went “straight to heaven” as a result of her selflessness. She recalled riding the train one weekend with her father, who bought the kids candy in Albuquerque before returning to Las Vegas.

Grucella met Carlos in school and admired his intelligence. They married in Las Vegas in 1942, while Carlos and his brothers trained for war. She remembered traveling by train with her husband throughout the country before he deployed to Europe during World War II. Following the war, Grucella, her young son and infant daughter moved with her husband to Los Alamos, where they lived until 1968.  She talked admiringly of her son, Gilbert, a student at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and her daughter Martha, who attended Highlands University. Grucella eventually moved back to Las Vegas with Carlos, where he worked for the post office until his death in 1980. Grucella quietly remembered her wedding anniversary every March 14 for 33 years without her husband by calling her grandson, Gil, Jr., whose birthday was the same date.

Grucella spent the final few years of her life at the Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque, where she enjoyed the company of new friends and often displayed her sense of humor, even playing April Fool’s jokes on the staff and friends earlier this month.

In addition to her parents and her husband, Grucella is preceded in death by brothers, Tony Jr. and Juan DeTevis; and sisters Lena Cde Baca, Amelia DeTevis, Emelita DeTevis, Alice DeTevis, Gloria DeTevis and Rose Sanchez.

Grucella is survived by her son, Gilbert Gallegos Sr., and wife Beatrice; and daughter, Martha Bustamante, and husband Dale. She was known and loved as Grandma Rise and Nan, by her seven grandsons, now her Pall Bearers:  Gilbert Gallegos, Jr. and wife Yvette, Jonathan Gallegos and wife Lee Ann, Adelio Bustamante (Phyllis), David Bustamante and wife Teresa, Dion Bustamante, Carlos Bustamante and wife Dawn, and Mark Bustamante (Amanda.) She is survived by 17 great-grandchildren: Carin, Isabella, Alek, Derrick and Tanner Gallegos, Jaleisha Bustamante, Cory Madrid, Adelio Jr, Machale, Diego, Luis Antonio, Daniel, Carlos Jr., Santos, Ava and Marko Bustamente; brother Joe DeTevis; sisters, Pita Lucero and husband Buddy, Marie DeTevis and Jane DeTevis; sisters-in-law, Grace Ulibarri and Claudia Gallegos, and numerous nieces and nephews. She is also survived by a special nephew Richard Tafoya and wife Darcy, who Grucella and Carlos helped raise, and a special niece Barbara DeTevis, who was close to her Aunty Rise. Grucella’s grandsons will serve as her Pall Bearers and her great-grandchildren will serve as Honorary Pall Bearers. A Rosary will be recited on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. at Risen Savior Catholic Community, 7701 Wyoming Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM. Interment will be at the Santa Fe National Cemetery at 3:00 p.m.

(A condensed version of this obituary will appear in the Albuquerque Journal and the Las Vegas Optic)

Friday, April 19, 2013


I wrote recently about my maternal, Native American ancestry, which shows a DNA connection to Bernadina Vasquez, who came to New Mexico in the early 1600s with her Spanish husband. I was told that Bernadina Vasquez likely descended from the indigenous population somewhere in Meso-America in the 1500s.

Recent DNA studies suggest that she descended from the Chichimeca nation, a large coalition of tribes just north of Mexico City, according to Angel Cervantes, the administrator of the New Mexico DNA Project.

The Chichimeca were nomadic hunter-gatherer people, considered by their adversaries – first the Aztecs and other indigenous tribes, and later the Spanish – to be barbarians. The Nahuatl name for the Chichimeca literally meant barbarians. Apparently some, but not all of the tribes practiced cannibalism, which may have led to the negative image. But they were also despised for many other reasons, and they fought for four decades in what became the Chichimeca War against the Spanish and their indigenous allies.

There were many different tribes that made up the Chichimeca with different cultures, ethnicities and languages. Cervantes said he doesn’t have enough DNA evidence to determine from which tribe or tribes that Hispanic New Mexico natives, like me, descended.

There are currently 82 people out of more than 1,600 in the New Mexico DNA Project who descend from the Chichimeca, Cervantes said. We descend from the centuries-old indigenous people through our mt-DNA. That means my mom’s heritage from her mother, Lola Gallegos; through her mother, Maria Arellanes; and so on for several generations.

Cervantes said he recently discovered one paternal, Y-DNA match between a New Mexican man to the Chichimeca, through Nicolas Espinoza in the 17th Century.

Unfortunately, I am not able to accurately track my ancestry all the way back to Bernadina Vasquez because of the lack of some church records in the 1700s. But Cervantes said my mtDNA proves that I descend from Bernadina Vasquez.

During a recent lecture on the subject, Cervantes speculated that Vasquez descended from a grandmother who was mestiza, or a mix of cultures that included a Chichimeca ancestor. More research is needed, but it’s interesting to know that my maternal ancestry reaches back to these mysterious indigenous people.

Bernadina Vasquez is believed to have been born in the early 1600s, just a few years after the settlement of New Mexico by the Spanish.

It’s possible, and highly likely, that I descend from other Native American ancestors in more recent generations. I’ll keep digging and see where the records and the DNA takes me.