Northeastern Junior College
July 27, 2009

Deldago Family holding plaques. Nine of ten children spent time being educated on local campus

By Barbara Baker

Even though Graviela Delgado only made it to elementary school herself, she was  a patriarch of education. When she and her husband,  Luis Sr., were raising their ten children out in the Iliff area,  there was never a question in her mind as to whether or not the kids would get a proper education.  From 1956 to 1976, at least one or more of the Delgado children were attending Northeastern Junior College at any given time. Nine of the ten children spent time in the classrooms and on the campus. To honor this commitment to learning, the Northeastern Junior College Alumni Association has recognized the Luis and Graviela Delgado family with the 2009 Pride in Association Award.

The award, established in 2002, is bestowed upon a family or individual who has provided support, dedication and loyalty to the college over the years.  It is awarded during the college’s commencement exercise each spring.

Known by most as “Mary”, Graviela instilled a desire for learning in her children during their very early years. Luis was employed by the Union Pacific Railroad while Mary dedicated her life to making a home for him and the children.

According to youngest son Chris, there was a significant age difference between Mary and Luis Sr.  He had migrated to northern Colorado and was spending his time between the  Longmont  and Iliff areas doing various kinds of work, eventually being hired by the railroad. She was living in the Longmont area, the two met and eventually wed through what son Chris refers to as somewhat of an ‘arranged’ marriage.  They settled in the Iliff area to raise their children. 

As the children became old enough, the entire family often worked in  area fields during the growing season to bring in some additional income, primarily hoeing beets for farmers in Iliff.  Mary and Luis used these side jobs as teaching moments and always reminded their youngsters that education was the key to a better and easier way of living.  Chris remembers well being woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the field to start hoeing. “There were a number of years that the migrant workers, for whatever reason, couldn’t get to this part of the state and our family provided a really important service to the area farmers when we weeded the fields ” he said.  “Dad worked for the railroad and by all standards, he had a really good job and so we had a lot of things that others in our area didn’t,” remember Chris. But, he says, his parents felt strongly that the kids needed to learn how to work. Not necessarily for the money as much as the principle.  “I remember one year when we all hoed all summer and when dad got paid, he handed each of us a twenty dollar bill,” laughs Chris, finding it extra amusing years later.  “I’m sure he kept the majority of the money to pay for something we needed as a family, because I remember handing that twenty back to him and telling him to keep it because he must need it more than I did.”  Chris speculates that money from the hoeing jobs may have been used to help pay for extras like  college expenses. Even though most of the Delgado children were offered some kind of financial aid and scholarships, his parents still made some payments to the college, he remembers. 

One by one, sometimes two by two, the Delgado children arrived at the doors to NJC, setting up class schedules and seeking work-study jobs or other ways to help pay for their education.  Each was somewhat on his or her own to make it work. Eldest son John graduated high school in 1954 and worked a few odd jobs before deciding that he would go to college.  “I remember when Roy Edwards asked me if I could wrestle,” says John, looking back to 1956 when he enrolled at NJC, “when he told me that I could get a meal card if I was on the wrestling team, I said I was willing to learn. That’s just how it was. You did what you needed to do to make it all work.”  John did wrestle for NJC, picking up the skills pretty quickly and making some great new friends in the process. 

John and his brother, Luis Jr., who had graduated high school in 1956, both started classes at NJC about the same time. In 1958 when they both graduated from NJC, not only did they set a precedent for the rest of their brothers and sisters, but both chose to move on to universities.  John went  to the University of Northern Colorado where he received a bachelor’s degree in education. Luis Jr. went to Regis University to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

John has spent his professional career in California helping other learners as both a teacher and an administrator. He later earned a master’s degree from San Jose State College.  Now retired, John is always advocating to the next generations in his family and beyond, how important it is to finish an education.

Luis Jr.  eventually returned to Sterling to be a building inspector, then moved  into the restaurant business as the current owner of the long-standing and well-known Sterling eatery called Delgado’s Dugout, appropriately located in the basement of an old church here.

Third son Guadalupe Delgado came to NJC to study in 1960, graduating in 1962. He ventured on to the Colorado School of Mines and Colorado State University to continue his studies and spent much of his  adult life working as a certified land surveyor.  Guadalupe is now retired and lives in Fort Collins.

Joe Delgado, owner of the Surf Club in Sterling, graduated from NJC in 1964. A sister, Helen, attended NJC for two quarters in 1969, but found employment with Qwest, a company from which she has since retired.

Albert Delgado came to NJC in 1968, graduating in 1970 and like John and Jesse, went on to UNC to receive a bachelor’s degree in education. Today he manages a PIMA Ace Hardware store located in a suburb of Phoenix. 

Christopher Delgado enrolled at NJC right after he graduated high school, but was drafted by the army prior to his second year. “I was told that the army wouldn’t take me because I was enrolled in college full-time,” remembers Chris.  NJC provided him with the documentation he needed to prove he was a full-time student.  “A group of us from Sterling went over to report.  I showed the guy my card  that said I was enrolled in college.  I’ll never forget it. He took that card and threw it in the trash and basically said it didn’t matter and told me to get in the next line.”  Chris did two years of active duty and then returned to Sterling and spent 10 years in the National Guard.  He never graduated from NJC, but has continued to take various classes throughout his adulthood and feel s certain that if all the credits were added up, he’d probably have an associate’s degree coming.  He is currently the owner of KC’s Music and Electronics in Sterling.

Graviela,  fondly nicknamed “Gaby”, the youngest daughter, named after her mother, studied at NJC in 1976, then transferred to the University of Mexico, eventually ending up at the University of Northern Colorado to complete her bachelor’s degree in education. She and her husband, Louis Mahaffey (also a Sterling area native),  live in Windsor and she has been a teacher in Weld County at Twombly Elementary School in Fort Lupton for many years

A daughter, Mary Lou, attended a nursing program in Boulder and worked as  a licensed practical nurse in Greeley for many years until she retired. She still lives in Greeley. 

From these 10 Delgado children has come 27 grandchildren, seven who have attended NJC and have gone on to universities or colleges to complete higher degrees in education, business, computer technology and counseling. Among these family  members  are  Celeste Delgado-Pelton who is now a professor of music at NJC and who also coordinates the college’s honors program.

Other families to receive this award over the past seven years include:  Joe and Corinne Gert Family (Iliff)-2002; Dave and Alice Yahn Family (Iliff)-2003; John “Ed and Mary Wiebers Family (Fleming)-2004;  Stephen and Irene Breidenbach (Pardon)-2005; Herman and Georgia Schneider Family (Sterling)-2006; Keith and Nell Propst Family (Merino)-2007; and the Harry and Mary Heinz Family (Sterling)-2008.


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