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Honoring Ruben Valdez

Honoring Ruben Valdez

Honoring Ruben Valdez
October 10
18:51 2019

Morgen Smith*

 

Haga » Click Aquí « para LEER esta Historia en Español

 

Ruben Valdez is gone. I can’t believe it, even though I know how ill he was. I’ve been driving up to Denver to see him since April when I learned of his illness. Every time I wondered if I would make it before he passed. In fact, I was about to call him and see if I could visit this Friday when I received the message on Wednesday from his granddaughter, Amber that he was gone.

 

Ruben was the first legislator to welcome me after my election in 1972. He was the first Hispanic Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, only 37 at the time. He was the author of the bilingual education bill, House Bill 1295. It was both his persistence and the friendship and respect he had among both Republicans and Democrats that got the bill passed.

 

A mentor

 

After his legislative service, he worked in the Carter administration and then in the cabinet of Governor Dick Lamm. Running a state agency can be difficult but he actually ran two at the same time – the Departments of Labor and Social Services. Ruben was a mentor. He mentored numerous Hispanic candidates for the legislature.

 

He  mentored school children. That resulted in one of his proudest accomplishments when in 2015, the Denver School Board named a campus for elementary through middle school students the Ruben Valdez Achievement Campus.

 

His hope

 

Our visits were always full of laughter. We’d talk about dogs – he loved his Rusty and even more so, his granddaughter’s dog who often stayed with him. We’d talk about politics and about old friends. Then he told a story I had never heard before. One of his older brothers, Paul fought in World War II, was captured by Germans in Italy but escaped with several other soldiers.

 

They ended up in a small town where the local Italians took care of them. Eventually, however, the Germans discovered them and executed them. This town later built a monument to them, and, within the last few months,  an official from Italy contacted Ruben about Paul. He was very excited about this call.

 

It gave him hope and something to look forward to – the hope that he could recover sufficiently to go visit this town with his family. Ruben is gone now. He is no longer suffering. I knew that the end was coming but I still hoped for at least one more visit.

 

(*) He served in the Colorado House of Representatives with Rube Valdez in the 1970s. Morgan-smith@comcast.net. .

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EDICIÓN VIRTUAL | #349 | 10 DE OCTUBRE 2019

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