Sylvia T. Valdez, 91 of Ignacio, Colorado passed on February 6, 2018 after a prolonged illness.
He was the oldest living Southern Ute Indian Tribal member. He was surrounded by family and friends at his home. Sylvia was born March 2, 1926 on the family ranch in Ignacio, Colorado to Jose M. Valdez and Euterpe Taylor.
He attended the government boarding school in Ignacio at the Southern Ute Agency. He was the sole graduate of the Class of 1946 from the Southern Ute Indian School.
Sylvia served his country in 1945 but was injured before deployment, he did not fight in the war so he did not accept his veteran status.
After recovery and his graduation, he worked for 35 years for the US Government Bureau of Indian Affairs as a coach, laborer, Caterpillar driver, and cook. After his retirement, he worked an additional 8 years for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe as a Food Distribution clerk and manager.
Sylvia spent 30 years on the Southern Ute Tribe’s Committee of Elders. He was also elected Chairman by the Committee members for many years. His native heritage meant so much to him and he passed along his teachings to all his children and grandchildren. In the traditional system, he was the last Hereditary Hunting Chief of our Tribe (the practice stopped in 1935 with the Indian Reorganization Act).
He helped teach the Ute language to anyone who wanted to learn and spoke English, Spanish, Ute, Navajo and the Pueblo language fluently. He also spoke several other native languages he learned from other children at the Indian school.
He was invited to lecture to students and faculty in the University of Colorado Boulder and Denver systems as well as provide historical background to a variety of institutions and academic programs to include the Colorado Historical Society and Colorado History Day.
He was a lifelong advocate for youth sports and coached many championship baseball and basketball teams. He loved going to games of all kinds and would travel anywhere and everywhere to watch his children and grandchildren play.
Sylvia was an excellent musician and could play almost anything with or without sheet music. He was exceptionally accomplished at electric and acoustic guitar, piano, trumpet, saxophone, drums, harmonica and accordion. He had an excellent singing voice and performed with The Pine River Boys in the 40’s and 50’s and with his family band from the 60’s until a few months before his passing. He is often remembered for performing in local parades and bars. He was honored to teach so many people to play instruments of all kinds and to sing: especially his children and grandchildren.
More than anything he loved going for long rides, telling funny stories, fishing, hunting the Washington Redskins and the Ignacio Bobcats.
He is survived by his loving wife and best friend of nearly 50 years Barbara Valdez, his children Gene Valdez (Lorraine), Marilyn Cotton (Leroy*), Marie Rivas (Hank*) of Pagosa, Venerita Valdez (Sherri), Sylvian D. Valdez (Patricia), Sherman M. Valdez, Carole D. Valdez, Wendell Bruce Valdez, Johnny T. Valdez (Wendy), Christopher C. Valdez (Cindy), Tina N. Valdez (Amelia), Sylvia Ann Valdez (Jaye), Sabrina Ann Valdez, and Dayna Esparza (all of Ignacio except as noted).
He is also survived by his sister Theresa Velasquez of Durango, 39 grandchildren and hundreds of great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, siblings and daughter Josephine Valdez-Howe Lister, son Raymond Valdez and numerous nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
A memorial service will be conducted Friday, February 9, 2018 at 10:00 am at the San Ignatius Catholic Church and a dinner celebrating his life will be held immediately after at the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose center; both in Ignacio, Colorado.
Thank you all for your well wishes and prayers for the family.
We all stand silent….