Louis (Louie) Villegos died peacefully on August 30th. He was home with his loving wife, children and a grandchild. He was three weeks shy of 97 years old.
Louis was born September 18, 1919, in Los Angeles, CA. He was the son of Gregoria Castion-Medina, brother of Ralph Villegos and stepson of Frank Medina. Louis moved to Colorado in the 1920s, first living in Aguilar and then Chandler, Colorado. Louis attended high school at Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City through the 11th grade. His stepfather then let him know school was no longer in the picture, he had to go to work and at 17 years of age Louie began work in the coal mines. He had already met his future bride of 76 years, Marina Sarmiento. In grade school Louie was best friends with Dionisio, Marina’s younger brother. Over the years Louis and Marina began to date, movies and dancing, Louis watched both. It was not until they were both 21 years of age that they mustered the courage to elope to Raton, New Mexico. Marina being the oldest of nine children looked after her younger siblings for her mom and dad, so mom and dad did not want her to marry, but marry they did, it was 1940. Louie continued working in the mines in Chandler and Florence, including working in his father-in-law’s mine.
As World War ll erupted Louie was called to duty. First Camp Roberts, CA, then on to North Africa. Upon arrival in Oran there was a need for interpreters. Louie was given assignment to the military police partly due to his being bilingual- English/Spanish. While in the 202nd Military Police Louie moved from North Africa into Sicily and then on into Italy. While in Italy he was assigned to General Omar Bradley. Louie traveled through parts of Italy seated in the same jeep as General Bradley. Louie often shared stories of Kasserine Pass in North Africa and Cassino Pass near Monte Cassino in Italy and other points of engagement as they moved toward Rome.
Following World War ll Louie returned to Marina, his beautiful wife, in Florence, Colorado. From Florence Louie and Marina moved to Sunnyside, Utah, where he worked at Kaiser Steel Coal Mines. While in Sunnyside Louie became a father to Tom and Felice, both born in Salt Lake City. Louis and family were members of Good Shepard Catholic Church. Louie raced oval dirt track in Dragerton, Utah (now East Carbon), driving the “EightBall” car along with his friends. After 16 years mining and advancing to mine foreman Louis moved the family back near Florence to the city of Colorado Springs. Louis worked construction in Colorado Springs from 1964 until 1972.
In 1972 Louie applied to the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), later becoming Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). He was accepted. Louie with over 20 years coal mining experience went to Beckley, West Virginia, for training as a federal coal mine inspector. Upon completion of this training Louie was assigned to Western Colorado and the family moved to Glenwood Springs. Seeing that mine safety standards were met and maintained became Louie’s goal. For 15 years Louie inspected Mid-Continent, Snowmass Coal, PowderHorn, West Elk just to name a few. He loved mining and he really enjoyed the company of the many miners he come to know. Louie had a real interest in the miners he engaged with and deeply cared for their welfare. He did not later write about caring for these miners, he demonstrated this care day to day through his actions and words. Louie was a member of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church and Knights of Columbus in Glenwood.
Through all the dangers Louie and his colleagues faced throughout the years, it was not until at the age of 67, when he was handed a laptop to help with his work did he decide it was time to move forward and retire. Louie and Marina had many friends in Glenwood Springs but decided to move closer to Marina’s mother. Louie and Marina returned to their home in Colorado Springs. Together they enjoyed their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Louie continued to enjoy the purchase he made in 1960, his Blue Ford shortbed pickup. It’s still awesome!
Louis is survived by Marina, his wife of 76 years; his son Tom (Theresa); grandson Joe; granddaughter Amy, all of Erie Colorado; daughter Felice of Colorado Springs; grandson Matt (Jessica) and granddaughter Jessica (Tommy); and three great-grandchildren, Tommy Jr, Izzy and Sammy, all of Denver.
Services will be 10:30 am Thursday, September 8th, at Divine Redeemer in Colorado Springs. Burial will follow at Lakeside Cemetery in Canon City, Colorado.
What a great man!
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