Jan. 24, 1920 – Feb. 12, 2018
Simon C. Velasquez was born on Jan. 24, 1920, in Texas to Simon and Hospicia Velasquez, moving to Lovell as a young boy, where he attended schools and graduated from Lovell High School. He died on Feb. 12, 2018.
Simon always loved his small Wyoming hometown and was proud to speak of the fact that he worked as a student janitor for the school system to help pay for his books. As one of 14 children, his parents didn’t have a lot of extra financially, though Simon knew the value of education and he valued the educational foundation he received here. Following high school, he wanted to serve his country in the war and joined his brothers in signing up. Simon chose to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces because he wanted to fly.
He served during World War II from 1941 to 1945 and achieved the rank of staff sergeant. He trained to be a ball turret gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress. His final transfer was to the 384th Bomb Group, where he was a replacement gunner, and it was in this position that his plane was shot down on April 13, 1944. The explosion threw him clear of the plane, and his parachute carried him to land near the Rhine River. He followed the river unnoticed for about a week before being captured and taken to the Stalag 17b POW camp in Austria, where he was held until marched out and liberated on May 3, 1945.
Simon’s three brothers also served in the war: Jesse, Joe and Guadalupe. He was a Purple Heart recipient. For the last 19 years he was a proud participant of the Wings of the North annual Air Expo.
Upon the end of the war and being liberated, face to face with General Patton, Simon moved to St. Paul, Minn., to look for work, where his mother and several siblings were already living. He married his beautiful bride, Beatrice, Jan. 4, 1947, and to this union two daughters were born: Anita (Paul) Cardenas and Eva (Steve) Houge. He ended up receiving further education through General Motors and worked as the head of their service department.
He resided in Woodbury, Minn., at the time of his death. Over the last couple decades he was involved with the Minnesota Historical Society, interviewed as one of Minnesota’s Greatest Generation, and was featured in a book, Woodbury Magazine and an independent book called “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation” published by the Minnesota Historical Society, an oral history project.
Simon was preceded in death by his parents, all 13 siblings, a grandson Craig and many more angels waiting for him.
Simon is survived by his wife, daughters and their spouses, two grandsons, eight great-grandchildren and many loving nieces, nephews and friends, including his nephew Jesse Martinez of Lovell and great-niece Jennifer (Martinez) D’Alessandro and family of Powell.
He was the younger brother of the late Juana Velasquez Martinez of Lovell, the only sibling to remain in Wyoming. Each summer, Jennifer and her family would spend time in Minnesota with great-uncle Simon and listen intently to the many stories he had to share.
“He was a historical vault, and we cherished every moment we had listening, questioning, videoing, photographing and just absorbing every single moment we had,” wrote D’Alessandro.
He was always sending copies of his books, prints of his plane and other memorabilia for Jennifer to share with area libraries, history teachers and anyone interested in “his story.”
Just a few years ago, he presented former Lovell Mayor Bruce Morrison with the POW flag that flies at the downtown veterans park in a small ceremony that included about 20 family members that gathered for the occasion.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in St. Paul with interment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery with full military honors.
Arrangements were handled by Klecatsky & Sons West Chapel.
To send one of our special floral arrangements, please call Valley Flowers & Gifts in Lovell, 307-548-7101