Eloy Salazar of Holbrook, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, soldier and teacher, died peacefully at the young age of 90 in the very early morning hours of Monday, March 10, 2014, in Encinitas, Calif. On March 9, the day before, Eloy had enjoyed his day with wonderful food and sitting in the warm California sun. He also spoke to all of his children and most of his grandchildren. He was just 8 days shy of being 91 years old.
Eloy was a teacher, a loving and supporting husband who raised his kids while dedicating his life to educating tomorrow’s future generations. He really enjoyed working with all the people in the school system and especially his close friends during his years at Holbrook Junior High. He loved to teach. His life was teaching. He had an insatiable curiosity for life and wanted to share with everyone. He loved watching a student gain the curiosity and use it him or herself. NAU gave him the tools for teaching and he used them. He read extensively and thought that reading was so important that he became a reading specialist.
Eloy spent a lot of time with the youth of Holbrook. He was a basketball and football coach until his knees gave away, “I just could not get out of the way of the line and got ran over twice. So that’s it.” He also volunteered as a Boy Scout leader and Catholic Catechism teacher.
Eloy was born on March 18, 1923, in Springerville, Ariz., to Cresencia Silva Salazar and Jose Benito Salazar. His mother died when he was three from complications during child birth of his little brother, Vicente. After the infant death of Vicente, Eloy was raised by his mother’s sister Lupita Silva, and mother’s brothers Jose and Lorenzo Silva, along with his dad, Jose Benito Salazar. His baby sister Stella was raised by his mother’s other married sister Espiridiona.
Eloy was a standout athlete. He was the high school football quarterback (leather helmets no face mask), and played college (NAU) basketball. He once beat the U of A Olympic hopeful at the 100 yard dash, barefoot. He did not own cleated shoes. He grew up hunting and fishing for the family table. He remembered chopping wood for the stoves early in the morning before school and sometimes hunting for rabbit and squirrel. He had fond memories of fishing for trout and bass with his cousin Evaristo Silva Jr. in the stream just down the street.
After graduating from high school, Eloy went to work in Morenci at the mines “to swing a hammer” as a carpenter. When World War II broke out he was part of the great 1943 draft. Eloy served with honor and distinction earning the Bronze Star.
He was “a 90 day wonder” and earned Marksman (we call them snipers today). Trained to be a Fighting Combat Engineer Demolitions Expert with the 3rd infantry in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he defused mines, placed and removed explosives on bridges and blew up machine gun pill boxes while under cover fire. He cried when watching the opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan,” saying that his landings were exactly like that. As he was the only surviving member of his company after one landing, he was put together with a small group behind enemy lines wreaking havoc. It was much like that small group in “Saving Private Ryan.”
He was taken to the European war by the Queen Mary. He said it was not escorted because it was so fast the German U boats could not catch it. It zigzagged across the Atlantic and landed in Casa Blanca, Morocco, the North of Africa. There they saw the German tanks piled into canyons after the Rommel defeat. There they trained for a beach landing and then they took a long train ride from Casa Blanca to Algiers. Eloy remembers they were all in cattle cars.
Eloy was a “GI Bill marvel”. A high school friend who did not go to war, but played football at U of A, said “Eloy, you have the GI bill why don’t you go play football with me at U of A?” They started on their way down to the U of A in Tucson but on their way there decided to try the “new” school in Flagstaff, NAU. There Eloy played on the basketball team. He said, “The footballers were too big”. At NAU he majored in English, Math, Spanish, and Geography (precursor to Geology) but his love was teaching.
Eloy started his long teaching career at Concho School where he was the principal. Later he became principal of St. Johns High School and it was there Eloy met his wife, Petra. They married on May 21, 1955. Soon after, they moved to Holbrook, to start raising a family and make it their hometown. Eloy was a long-time teacher at Holbrook Junior High School. His career spanned over 30 years and he was amazed when he realized he was teaching the grandchildren of many of his students. Eloy was referred to as “Sal” by his teaching family. During the summer breaks, Eloy was a park ranger at the Petrified Forest for over 17 years. Eloy was a tutor to many young people and inspired a few to become educational professionals themselves. He was always with a quick wit and quick to smile; was gentle and patient; enjoyed talking to people, welcomed sitting outside to watch the sunset; enjoyed cooking, and was grateful for the life given him. He will be dearly missed.
Funeral Mass of Christian Burial to celebrate his life will be held at 10 o’clock Saturday, May 31, 2014 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, located at 212 E. Arizona St. in Holbrook, and will be preceded by the Recitation of the Holy Rosary at 9:30 a.m. The committal service and inurnment will immediately follow Mass at the Holbrook Cemetery. Family, friends and all his students are warmly invited to gather at a reception that will begin at 12 noon at the family center across the street from the church.
Survivors include his beloved children, Timothy (Joan) Salazar of Encinitas, Calif., Peter (Susan) Salazar of Seattle, Wash., and Margaret (Patrick) Grohs of Kailua, Hawaii; his wonderful grandchildren, Teresa Salazar, Adrian Salazar, Matthew Salazar, Monica Salazar, Natalie Salazar and Daniel Seguirant; his honorary grandchildren, Kimberley Anselmo, Randall Anselmo and Logan Anselmo; cousins, sister-in-laws & brother-in-laws, Rosa Garcia, Viola Valdivia, Erlinda Salazar and Patricia (Lupe) Tafoya; and Reggie (Barbara) Baca; the Silvas in Springerville; his beloved nieces and nephews; longtime family friends and thousands of students from Holbrook, St. Johns, Springerville and the surrounding areas.
Eloy was preceded in death by his wife Petra, mother Cresencia, father Jose Benito, sister Stella, and baby brother Vicente.
Arrangements are bieng handled through Owens Livingston Mortuary in Holbrook.