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Rafael L. Gonzales

December 25, 1927 October 26, 2023
Rafael  L.  Gonzales
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Obituary for Rafael L. Gonzales

Rafael L. Gonzales, long-time resident of the Fowler area, passed away on October 26, 2023, in El Paso, Texas. He was 95 years old. Rafael was preceded in death by his wife Flora Gonzales; his parents, Rafael and Adelina Gonzales; his sisters Prescilla Espinoza and Flora Cruz; his brothers Tino Gonzales, Jose Gonzales, Baby Richard; and his grandson Erik Hiatt. He is survived by his sons James (Bertha) Gonzales and Larry (Linda) Gonzales; his daughters Barbara Bishop and Susan Gonzales; his grandchildren Jasmine Rose Gonzales and Lucas Gonzales; his great-grandchildren Oceana Elder, Sol Rafael Gonzales, James Alex Gonzales, Isaiah Gonzales, and Vega Gonzales; his sister Rosemary Barela and his brother Carlos Gonzales; as well as many nephews, nieces, and friends.

Rafael was born in Chacon, New Mexico, on Christmas day in 1927. He began to work at the early age of seven, tending goats in the mountains. As a teenager, he worked with a small crew herding thousands of sheep on horseback from Colorado to Wyoming. While still a teen, Rafael got a job with a crew building fences for the railroad from Wyoming to Idaho.

Rafael’s life became complete on his eighteenth birthday when he married the love of his life, Flora Torres, on Christmas day in 1945. Together they embarked on an adventure filled with achievements. Rafael worked as a section hand for the Union Pacific Railroad until he joined the United States Army and served in the Aleutian Islands at the end of World War II. There he cooked and baked for 160 men and supervised Japanese POW’s. Once he volunteered for a hazardous salvage operation and received a letter of commendation from President Truman, who personally thanked him and shook his hand.

After his honorable discharge from the Army, Rafael returned to Wyoming to work for the railroad. He and Flora worked hard and saved their money to move near family in the Fowler area. Rafael worked in a bakery there and later in Pueblo at Wonder Bread. A serious back injury ended Rafael’s baking career. Ever resourceful and determined, he turned to farming and construction. He bought a small farm, remodeled the old farmhouse, and lived in it for a while. Before long, he sold the house with a few acres and kept most of the land. He used the money to buy an adjoining farm with an old farmhouse to remodel and sell to buy the next farm. He never became too attached to any one place. Continuing this pattern, he built up a 300-acre farm with a new house, shops, and barns. At the same time, Rafael was working every day as the owner and chief carpenter, mason, and plumber of Gonzales Construction. He built and remodeled many homes and businesses in the Fowler area. His specialty was fireplaces, which kept people warm in the winter and provided a beautiful focal point throughout the year.

His endeavors were successful with the help of his constant partner Florita who kept the books, lent a hand at the building sites, tended to the gardens, and raised their four children. Together they operated their farm, raising corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, alfalfa, and pinto beans, as well as chickens, hogs, and cattle. The vegetables they raised for their own use yielded such abundant harvests that Rafael built a large produce stand. Customers flocked to buy sweet corn, chili peppers, watermelons, green beans, and other healthy produce.

Rafael’s business ventures benefited others as well as himself. He created jobs on the farm and on building sites. He taught his sons and daughters how to build and farm. Many nephews and nieces worked on his farm in their youth, learning the value of hard work. Besides their farm and construction business, Rafael and Flora had other businesses, such as a wood-burning stove store, a health store, and a solar heating enterprise.

Rafael and Flora loved to travel. In their motorhome, they traveled to Canada, Mexico, and throughout the United States. They travelled with their son Larry and his wife Linda to Alaska. They took Flora’s parents on a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. They visited their son James in El Paso, Texas. They traveled to Oregon to visit their daughter Barbara. They visited their daughter Susan in Ecuador when she was in the Peace Corp.

Rafael loved his country, his family, and his community. He loved to see the flag flying overhead and urged people to exercise their right to vote. He was a lifetime member of the VFW. He willingly served on juries when summoned. He volunteered his labor to help poor people fix their windows, doors, and plumbing. He served on various boards in the community. He had a rare blood type and donated blood when needed. He remodeled portions of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Chapel in Fowler and even built the altar.

After his beloved wife passed away, Rafael lived with his daughter Barbara for a while before going to live with his son James in Texas. His investment in serving his country as a soldier paid off in his old age. The Veterans Administration provided excellent medical care for all his needs, including his hearing aids, medicine, and caregivers.

Rafael’s last days were spent at the Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home, where he also had the constant attention of his daughter Barbara. He was honored as a WWII veteran upon his arrival at the Veterans Home and quickly made friends. His body was carried out draped in the Stars and Stripes to music of Taps while staff and residents stood at attention and saluted the passing of one of their own.

There will be a rosary at 1:30 P.M. followed by a 2:00 P.M. Memorial Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe St. Patrick's Catholic Church. November 14, 2023

Arrangements have been entrusted to the loving care of the Johnson-Romero Family Funeral Home

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Previous Events





2:00 PM 11/14/2023 2:00:00 PM
Our Lady of Guadalupe St. Patrick's Parish

3rd St
La Junta, CO 81050

There will be a rosary at 1:30 P.M. followed by a Memorial Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe St. Patrick's Parish
3rd St La Junta 81050 CO
United States

Cemetery Details


Fowler Cemetery Final Resting Place

East of Fowler on Hwy 50
Fowler, CO 81039

East of Fowler on Hwy 50 Fowler 81039 CO
United States

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