It is with great sadness that the family of Chris Gallegos announce his passing on Feb. 3 at the age of 69 at his home in Pagosa Springs. After a hard-fought battle with cancer, Chris was called home to be with his heavenly Father.
Julio Cristobal Gallegos, Chris, as he was known to many, was a true local to this area. He was born on Nov. 8, 1951, in Lumberton, N.M., to Alfredo and Juanita Gallegos. The family moved to the Pagosa Springs area in 1959, where he grew up and lived his entire life. His contributions to the life of this community are perhaps unknown to many, but significant all the same.
The second child of 14, Chris was well known for his booming voice and his playful banter. “Ornery” was the word often used, and he loved nothing more than to tease his kids, his sisters, family, friends or some unsuspecting newcomer. Underneath his gruff exterior was a spirit of gentleness and generosity. He earned the reputation of being a reliable and loving brother, father and grandfather. The family and the community could depend on him for anything, and so many people did. He wore the “big brother” and “Patrón” persona well and his passing leaves a void that will be hard to fill.
As a young child, Chris began school in Lumberton, N.M., and later in Pagosa Springs, where he made lasting friendships, enjoyed playing on the basketball team, and where he graduated in 1971.
While still in high school, his father sustained a serious injury while working for a local lumber company and for a time Chris was forced into the position of family breadwinner, as he worked logging timber in his off-school hours. Immediately following graduation, Chris joined the Army National Guard and served his country for 14 years as a medic with the 928th Medic Company.
He married Darlene Espinosa in 1973 and together they had four children: Denessa, Christopher, Marcos and Jeremy. They made their home in Pagosa Springs and Chris worked as a ranch hand. He loved the ranching life and in particular working with horses. He then worked at the San Juan Lumber Company and then the Chimney Rock Coal Mine. When the coal mine closed, Chris went to work for the Town of Pagosa Springs Street Department, eventually becoming supervisor. After 34 years, he retired in 2018 to care for his wife, Darlene.
Throughout his life, Chris loved the outdoors, and he had a special talent for working with and breaking horses. He was amazingly adept with a lariat, rarely missing. He loved nothing more than taking a pack trip on horseback with friends or family.
His passion was his family. There was nothing his family could ask of him that he didn’t give. His sons, Christopher and Jeremy, were his pride and joy. When they brought grandchildren into the family, that love naturally extended down to them.
His generous and kind spirit provided for others outside of the family, as well. Together with his wife, Darlene, they took in many young people who just needed to feel the warmth of family. Countless youths in the community found a home with Chris and Darlene, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few years.
Through his job with the Town of Pagosa Springs, Chris was a vital member of the community, helping towns-people and neighbors any way that he could. A “man’s man,” full of practical knowledge and old school wisdom, he used his gifts to help others. A particular role he adopted was assisting bereaved families with funeral and burial needs.
Chris loved celebrations and worked tirelessly on the groundwork to build Pagosa Springs’ Independence Day activities, helping to organize parades, directing traffic and lighting of the annual firework display. He was also in on the ground floor of Pagosa Springs Spanish Fiesta to celebrate the history and people of our area.
Chris Gallegos lived a life of service, and at the root of his motivation was his love of the Lord, very clearly expressed in his work in the Immaculate Heart of Mary/John Paul II parish. He served on the Parish Council and was a member of the Knights of Columbus. Together with his wife, Darlene, he led classes for preparation of baptism, marriage, as well as youth religious education. He helped to sponsor and chaperone youth groups for retreats and to youth conferences in many places, most notably to Rome. He served as a Eucharistic minister within the church and also to the homebound.
Chris is survived by his sons, Christopher and Jeremy Gallegos, and his grandchildren: Alyssa Rivas (Isaiah), Tianna Gallegos, Rheanna Gallegos, Gabriel Gallegos, Angelo Gallegos and Brylin. He had one great granddaughter, Avila Rivas. He is also survived by his siblings, Sarah Gallegos, Lorenzo Gallegos (Jessie), Ernest Gallegos (Mardel), Dorothy Gallegos (Trent), Alfred Gallegos (Tara), Eleanor Gallegos, Stella McFatridge (Harvey), Anna Appenzeller (Tom), Sandra Schultz (Gary), Nyana Janowsky (Dan), David Gallegos (Tina), Leticia Gallegos (Nick) and Anjelica Cardenas (Lorenzo); and countless nephews, nieces, cousins, adopted family members and Godchildren. Chris is also survived by his mother-in-law, Beatrice Espinosa; sisters-in-law Georgia Ortega, Amy Moreno (Jesus); brothers-in-law Henry (Lou Jean), Joseph (Carrie), Dennis (Dhalia), George (Jennifer) and Armando; nieces and nephews.
Chris is predeceased by his wife, Darlene, his children, Denessa and Marcos, and his parents, Alfredo and Juanita Gallegos.
Thank you to all of the many friends who were there for Chris throughout this ordeal, all of you who offered words of comfort or prayer. Thanks to all who encouraged him, whether it be taking him out to lunch, bringing in a meal, going for a drive, visiting or a simple phone call. Your kindnesses meant so much to him. Thank you, Virginia Zamora, for your care, support and friendship.
It is with deep gratitude that we say thank you to the Pagosa Springs Oncology Department. Chris could not say enough about your kindness, gentleness, fun-loving ways. You all touched his heart in a very special way and helped him to focus on joy and getting well. Thank you to Hospice of Mercy and all the people there who came in and cared for Chris.
A private Recitation of the Rosary will be held at Pope John Paul II Catholic Church on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. A private Mass of Christian burial will be Feb. 13 at 10:30 a.m. and will be livestreamed on the Web page http://demo.popejohnpauliichurch.org/. Due to COVID-19, seating is restricted at both the rosary and the Mass. In lieu of attending the service, the family would be honored if people wishing to pay their respects would park along the route of the procession to the cemetery, which will proceed from Pope John Paul II Catholic Church, down Put Hill to 8th Street and on to the Juanita Cemetery following the Mass.
People wishing to pay their respects can park along the route.