Born to Desiderio and Ascension Barela on April 15, 1924 in Monticello, New Mexico, Melquiades 'Mel' Padilla Barela passed from this earth on June 30, 2020 at the age of 96. He grew up attending school in a one room schoolhouse until the 11th grade after which his help was needed for the family farm. Following his older brother's footsteps, he enlisted in the Army in 1943 to fight for his country during World War II eventually celebrating the Allied victory while serving in Germany. As an infantryman and paratrooper, he would see action in Africa and the European front including Rome-Arno, Northern France, the Ardennes, Rhineland and Belgium earning a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts (Africa and Belgium) and a good conduct medal. After his return to Fort Bliss, Texas he was honorably discharged and bussed back to Arrey, NM where he immediately went right back to work at the ranch with little, if no fanfare whatsoever.
He met the love of his life, Esther Lena Carrejo in Truth or Consequences and they married on March 3, 1946 in Los Lunas. Both worked hard on the family ranch, yet Mel still found time to attend a vocational school for five years using the GI bill to study agriculture. After the births of their first two sons they moved to Albuquerque, and Mel landed a position with the Bureau of Reclamation from which he would eventually retire after 28 years of service as a surveyor. He and Esther would welcome two additional sons in Albuquerque before transferring to Norman, Oklahoma, and then to Farmington in 1964 to continue raising their boys.
Mel was a beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather and friend. He was quite active and did not sit around after retirement very long before deciding to become a school bus driver until his second retirement. He loved to drive and later signed with a local car rental company transferring vehicles while also volunteering to drive the VA van back and forth to Albuquerque for local veterans until physically unable.
Mel served with his wife Esther at St. Mary's and Sacred Heart Catholic Churches in Farmington where they provided the Eucharist sacraments to those confined to the hospital, home and jail. He and Esther received the New Mexico Catholic family of the year award in 1986, and Mel enjoyed his time serving with the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary's church.
In his spare time Mel liked to hunt and he loved to fish and garden. His encouragement and willingness to support all the endeavors of his sons as they matured is well remembered. He was kind and sacrificed much for his children. Mel and Esther took great delight spending time with grandchildren and made every effort to attend each child's sporting events and school presentations.
Mel kept his war memories quiet for 50 years until an avid WWII history buff and family friend began talking with him about his time in the service. Suddenly he began to share memories, and his stories came to life mesmerizing the family with vivid descriptions of battles, brushes with death, narrow escapes, war wounds and what happened the day the war ended. In June 2016, Mel was fortunate to fly on the Honor Flight to Washington DC where he and other WWII vets received the red-carpet treatment honoring their service. Upon returning to the ABQ airport the veterans were welcomed by a huge number of fans waving flags and personally expressing their thanks for his service. Arriving in Farmington he received a hero's welcome as well and he stated he felt like he had finally 'come home'. It was a momentous time for him for which he was very grateful.
The family would like to thank the many doctors, nurses and attendants from San Juan Regional Medical Center, Welbrook, Beehive, PALS and Hospice who frequently stated, He's such a cute little man! I just love him!. We have to agree and will miss him greatly.
Mel was preceded in death by his wife Esther, son Melquiades Jr. Little Mel Barela, parents Desiderio and Ascension, sister Nellie Candelaria, Tere Barela, and brother Herman Barela.
He is survived by sons Joseph (Vivian) Barela, Albert (Gayle) Barela, Abram 'Abe' (Starla) Barela, 13 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren.
A rosary will be held at 10:30 am Friday, July 10, 2020 at St. Mary's Catholic Church with the funeral mass at 11:00 am, followed by a gravesite service at Memory Gardens. Pallbearers are Joseph Barela, Abram (Abe) Barela, Aaron Barela, Sean Barela, Michael Barela, Joel Barela, Sol Rascon and Jerry Ulibarri.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Catholic Building Fund at St. Mary's Catholic Church.
Mel's care is entrusted to Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home, 103 E. Ute St. Farmington, NM (505) 325-8688. You may share condolences with the family on our website: www.serenityandcompany.com http://www.serenityandcompany.com.
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