Pat Chavez



PAT CHAVEZ [ESPANOLA HIGH CLASS OF 63] Lord, I hope this day is good I’m feeling empty and misunderstood I should be thankful Lord, I know I should But Lord, I hope this day is good What, you might ask, do those lyrics from the Don Williams country classic have to do with 1963 Espanola High graduate Pat Chavez? More than you might imagine. Chavez, you see, became quite a bass fisherman—good enough to compete in professional tournaments—after he left New Mexico in the mid ‘60s to pursue a career in the Air Force. A fellow airman introduced Pat to the sport of bass fishing while Pat was on a brief furlough in Alabama. ``He lent me his rod and a plastic “worm” ’’says Pat. ``I caught a five pound bass and I guess I was hooked (no pun intended). (Before that) I never even knew what a bass was.’’ Once he got involved in tournaments, Williams’ ``Lord I Hope This Day Is Good’’ became part of Pat’ tournament preparation. Every time he headed out for a day of competitive fishing, that song would be the first one Pat played on his boat’s tape player. It’s safe to say Pat and his wife Jeanette have had a multitude of good days in their nearly 50-year partnership. They raised two children—John and Tammy—and have six grandkids. The Air Force afforded them the opportunity to live all over the U.S., but when it came time to retire, they returned to their roots and settled in Albuquerque. Pat spent much of his early youth in the southern Colorado community of Center. His parents, Pedro and Maria Ernestina, had moved there from the Rio Arriba County hamlet of Chili when Pat was about eight years old. They raised potatoes and lettuce on the farm in Center and Pat would help irrigate barley land for the Adolph Coors Brewing Company. Pat’s dad retired in the spring of 1959 and the family moved back to Chili. Pat finished up his seventh grade year at the school in Hernandez. Understandably, the young man who was used to wearing Cowboy boots and bib overalls felt a little out of place. He acclimated and his quick smile and friendly nature won over his peers. At Espanola High School, Pat excelled in art and played on the football team. He and fellow Espanola alum and Chili neighbor John Herrera became good friends—a friendship that remains as strong as ever. The two shared an apartment in Albuquerque for a year or so after high school. John was attending a business school. Pat was and working as a ``lot boy’’ at a car dealership on North Fourth. Anxious to do something more productive, Pat joined the Air Force on July 14th, 1964. He was 19. By then, he and Jeanette had found each other. They met at a wedding dance in Encino, a neighboring community to Jeanette’s hometown of Vaughn. The attraction, says Pat, was instant. ``She was beautiful,’’ says Pat. ``She was sitting there with her grandmother, an aunt and two cousins.’’ Pat asked one of the band members to ``play a slow one,’’ then walked up to Jeanette and asked her to dance. They were married in June of 1966. Pat didn’t set out to make the Air Force a career. But he re-enlisted when his first four-year tour ended. He was making $78 a month when he first joined. That amount jumped to $178 when he and Jeanette got married and he got a $1,700 bonus when he re-upped for four more years. ``That was a lot of money,’’ says Pat. ``I was able to buy a Camaro.’’ His career included a year in Vietnam and an assignment in the far northwest corner of the U.S. There, he was part of a security force that guarded squadrons of F-102 fighter jets that were loaded with nuclear weapons—just in case the Russians tried to launch an invasion. These days, Pat spends time pulling for the Denver Broncos and New Mexico Lobos. He and Jeanette long ago became NASCAR fans and travel when they can to a race. And they’re part of that extended family of Nortenos who grew up in the Espanola Valley in the ‘50s and ‘60s and have reconnected all these years later. Written by Pete Herrera




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