Questeño Larry Sanchez is a man on a mission. He has a long history of helping individuals and serving his community in any way he can, especially veterans. His service began during the Vietnam era. Born in Questa, he graduated from Questa High School in 1971 and immediately volunteered with the US Army, taking his basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. He went on to Ft. Bliss in El Paso, TX, and was shipped out to Germany, where he was stationed for 19-1/2 months in the Air Defense Artillery. He loved Europe and says that for a young kid right out of high school, it opened his eyes to what was going on in the world.
When Larry came back to Questa in1973, he started the Questa/Cerro Sierra Boxing Club with Rudy Garcia at the old La Cienega Gym. It was a wonderful service to the community; they taught many young Questeños. After 13 years, “the times they were a changin’…” and most young people were no longer interested in boxing, so the doors of the Boxing Club closed.
In the meantime, Larry was hired at the mine and worked for 24 years as their mill foreman. In 1986, almost everyone at the mine was laid off. Larry and one other employee were relocated to the UNOCAL mine in Parachute, Colorado. After three years, the Questa mine was reopened, and they returned. Larry went underground at the mine this time, where he worked for 12 years, before coming back to the surface.
In 2002-06 Larry was elected to the Questa Village Council and started the cleanup committee, with which he is still active today. Larry has been helping clean up Questa since the 1980s—every spring there is a village-wide cleanup event. Working with the Village of Questa, Larry helped to bring a new ambulance to our village, with the aid of the late Senator Carlos R. Cisneros, and worked with him on many projects, including being part of his volunteer campaign committee for 34 years!
Larry was appointed by Governor Bill Richardson to the Taos County Commission in 2009 and then served for another term until 2014. When asked about local politics, he says it was gratifying to have leverage to help people in his district. Some of the projects he helped bring to fruition include the Abregadero Road project in Cerro, which paved the dirt road through a CDBG grant for a half million dollars. Larry was also instrumental in bringing cell service to Amalia and Costilla.
When a tragic accident took the life of Helen Martinez at the highway intersection in Costilla, Larry and the County Commission took action. Locals had been concerned that something terrible would someday happen, with motorists flying through Costilla at 80 mph, coming from the Colorado border. Larry was instrumental in working with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to slow down the traffic by installing a caution flashing light warning people to slow down. It worked. At speeds of over 50 mph, the light starts flashing and gets your attention. Other lives have possibly been saved by this safety measure.
Larry has worked extensively with the senior community. While on the board of Ancianos Senior Center, he procured a van from the VA hospital in Albuquerque to transport veterans back and forth to their VA appointments: he also set up a cohort of volunteer drivers.
Larry is devoted to working with veterans. He worked with the late Senator Cisneros, who procured legislative funds to create the Questa Veterans Memorial Park at the main intersection in downtown Questa. After the Senator’s death, Larry took the initiative to bring the park to the next level; the park was renamed after Cisneros, and a commemorative plaque, stone, sign, and photograph were added. He organized a rededication ceremony a year ago in honor of Veterans Day.
Larry is continuing the improvements on the Senator Carlos R. Cisneros Memorial Park. The next phase of the project is paving it with commemorative bricks to honor local veterans (see page 32). These paver bricks are available to purchase in tribute to loved ones for $50. Larry says, “These bricks are a pat on the back for those living who served and for those veterans who are no longer with us: it makes their families proud.”
There will be a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Questa on Saturday November 13 at noon, to honor all veterans who have served. There will be guest speakers, including Col. Richard Rael, Jr. and others. In addition, there will be a special honor bestowed on the late PFC Charles “Charlie” Castulo Cisneros, who the Cerro VFW Post is named after. He will be honored with a plaque and stone at the veterans memorial. Please join us to honor this worthy veteran and all veterans. If the weather is not good, the event will take place at EL Monte Carlo, next door. For information, please call Larry Sanchez at (575) 779-0995.