Las Vegas woman celebrates 103rd birthday

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By The Staff

Rosita M. Gallegos is one of Las Vegas’ oldest residents.  

She celebrated her 103rd birthday on June 26 with more than 50 family members and friends present.

A party was held in her honor at Vida Encantada Rehab where she has resided for the past two years. Her actual birthday was June 29.  

Many family members traveled from far away to be with the matriarch on her special day. Her room was filled with fresh roses  in honor of her nickname, Rose.

Rosita has witnessed hundreds of history-making events as well as changes in technology.  She was born before New Mexico was even a state. In 1907 when she was born, her parents, Merced and Marietta Maestas, lived in Canyon Largo near Maes, N.M.  They ranched there and lived off the land.

 Rosita always has stories to tell about growing up at the ranch surrounded by family.  

 She was second to the youngest of many siblings. The family harvested produce, raised cattle and enjoyed friend and family gatherings. Living in such a remote area kept Rosita busy sewing, cooking, horse back riding, gardening and making friends. There was not much schooling in those days so she mostly learned from her parents.

When Rosita was 15, she and her future husband-to-be vowed to wait for each other when his family decided to move to Helena, Mont. To go on dates they would jump on their horses and ride around the ranch. Juan I. Gallegos left New Mexico as a teen, but the couple always exchanged letters and occasionally saw each other during family visits.

Thirteen years passed before they exchanged wedding vows. In 1935, Juan traveled from Helena with a large trunk full of housewares, linens, etc. ready to set up household and become a family man.

The wedding celebration was held in Wagon Mound, many miles across the river from the family ranch. There were three days of celebrations, which was typical of the families from that area.

Between 1937 and 1948, eight children were born to Juan and Rosita.

They loved the rural life in Maes, N.M., but decided to relocate to Las Vegas so their children could get an education. It was a difficult decision, leaving all that they loved behind.

Most families were doing the same thing around that time, so by the time they arrived in Las Vegas they had a family support system awaiting them. Juan went to work for International Harvester on Railroad Avenue. Rosita started making adobe bricks to build a home for their family, putting their children to work as soon as we could handle the shovel and help form the bricks.

Before long they were able to leave their rented house and move into a one-bedroom home on Pecos Street. Eventually, more rooms were added to the house, to include two kitchens and several bedrooms, all built by the family, but mostly by Rosita.

They never forgot the ranch in Maes, however.  They bought land there and kept cattle, horses and sometimes chickens.  Weekends and summers were spent there until the children grew up and moved away from home. Only then could the couple enjoy weeks and months planting gardens, chopping wood, riding the horses, tending to the cattle and making friends at the ranch. It did not matter that there was no running water, electricity or telephone.

Rosita lost her husband in 1984. She lived  alone in Las Vegas until one of her sons moved her to Albuquerque to be close to him and his wife.  After several years in her own apartment, she was lucky enough to also live in Denver and Apache Junction, Ariz., with family.  

While Rosita never drove a car, she did take her first airplane ride at the age of 84. The trips she took were mainly to see family. Her life has been rich with friendships, good health and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Rosita reads scripture, plays bingo, joins activities and goes in her wheelchair every day with her daughter who lives nearby.

She calls her out-of-state children on her cell phone almost daily. She especially like to read the Optic, which she has subscribed to for more than 65 years. And she likes to have visitors.