Mora County Notebook - The life and work of one of Mora’s patriots

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Padilla devoted his life to family and community

By Ruth Fort

Amadeo Padilla was a well-known Mora barber. His shop still stands across the street from Pacheco Oil and Gas in downtown Mora. It is the red building with a tree growing in front of it now. For years it was the place to go to get your hair cut and have a nice chat with Padilla while he worked. Many people did not know about his background but he was well-known  for his skill in making men look neat and well-trimmed.

They did know about his family as he was very proud of his hard working wife, Viola, and their eight children who were living in Santa Fe with their mother.

Viola and Amadeo  decided that they wanted their children to go to school in Santa Fe. They wanted the best for their children and encouraged them all to get a good education.

They worked hard many hours to help their children achieve their goal.

They all followed their father’s and mother’s footsteps in not being afraid to try anything they decided they wanted to do. They all completed their college except one who has been successful in the insurance business, as well as a prize-winning horseman and a writer and whatever else he decides he wants to do, including tearing down an old house saving the materials and rebuilding it into a beautiful home.

Of the 23 grandchildren only three have not completed their college careers. All have attended prestigious colleges and universities and are doing well in their lives.

All of this because of the faith, hard work and goals that have been instilled by their parents, grandparents and great -grandparents through their encouragement, examples and faith.

Amadeo’s family was from Cleveland, north of Mora. His father’s family is of Spanish stock. They settled in New Mexico and migrated to Mora Valley in early 1800s. The story begins in 1914.

Amadeo’s father Manuel married  Maclovia Casados a red-haired woman. Amadeo was the second child of their seven children. Amadeo’s father, Manuel, found railroad work in Rawlins, Wyo., as did many of the men in the valley. Manuel would go to work in Wyoming alone and sometimes take his son Manuel. The family went with him for three years.

At that time Amadeo, 12, slept by the fire to keep it going all night because the house where they lived was cold and drafty. Amadeo sold newspapers before he went to school each morning. His father bought a team of horses with the $92 that Amadeo had saved selling papers.

When he was in the seventh grade he quit school.

When the family returned to Cleveland, he tended family cows on the hillsides of Cleveland. Their house was in shambles as the older boys were looking for buried treasure and tore the house apart.

Amadeo built a house of adobe for his mother and got lumber by trading logs for lumber. As a young man he and his friends dug graves in the Cleveland cemetery, attended funerals and wakes and sang the alavados and canticos for those who had died.

Amadeo was close to his mother and her to him as he worked to help her in all the ways he could.

In 1942, when Amadeo was 27, his life changed in many ways. He had met a lovely woman, Viola Maes, daughter of Arturo and Adela Maes.

She was seven years younger than Amadeo. Just three weeks before their planned wedding Manuel and Maclovia were walking along the road in Cleveland when a drunk driver went off the road and hit Maclovia, killing her. She was only 47 years old.

In June of 1942, Amadeo was called to the service. In just 90 days he would bury his mother, marry his bride and be called to the service. He was classified as a quartermaster because he had the presence of mind to call out his career as “salesman” instead of “farmer” as others had.

Those who said “farmer” had to go to the infantry. He was sent to Cairo, Egypt,  and eventually to a field hospital. He took barber tools with him, and on the way to Cairo, he cut hair for the other men on the troop ship. He continued doing this, during their free time, for the rest of his army career. In 37 months, he sent $14,000 home and he and his wife built their home with that money after he returned.

They had eight children. The first one, Robert, was born while he was in the service. They had the rest of their children in quick succession — Ernie, Doris, Elaine, Patsy, Charles, Marian and Ray.

When Viola and the eight children moved to Santa Fe to attend schools there, Amadeo stayed in Mora to keep his barber shop open six days a week and to take care of theirs and Viola’s parents’ cattle. Viola and the children came home every weekend to be with him. On weekends when they were home the children all had work laid out for them before their father left for work. They did the work set out for them willingly and well.

When the question came up of how they were going to finance all of the children’s education Amadeo always said, “Where I fail, God will provide,” and He did.

After 1968, he commuted to Santa Fe every weekend. It was a happy time when he came. In the meantime, the oldest son Robert was the father figure for the family. Viola was a courageous and loving mother who cared for her eight children with love and faith.

Amadeo made a difference wherever he went. In Mora, he not only worked hard but helped to better the community. He and some other veterans organized the American Legion, acquired land for the Mora Rodeo and built the pavilion.

They also started the fire department, community water and later the Mora Mutual Sewage Works.

He was a cheerful energetic man with a vision for his family and his community. He never shirked at duty or labor but went at it with vigor, cheerfulness and drive.

After his final child had been educated, he closed his shop at the age of 75. He did not move to Santa Fe right away, but for several years stayed in the house he and Viola had built. He gathered wood for the winter, worked for the good of the community and spent time riding his palomino mare “Lisa.”

He rode her in all the fiesta parades until he was 85 years old. He always carried the flag while riding her. He knew everyone in the community and joined families in their funerals and rosaries. He was District Commander of the American Legion at one time.

He finally moved to Santa Fe and he and Viola spent the last few years of his life peacefully and happily knowing that they had worked hard, taught their children the virtues that helped them in their lives. They followed their parents example of faith, virtue, cheerful workers and doing what had to be done well.

In the words of their son, Charles Padilla,  “Amadeo Padilla was an ordinary man with a vision and gave his example of his simple virtues of love, family, values, drive, resolve, sacrifice, generosity and respect.”

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may  be reached at (575) 387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.