Our beloved, Magdalena (Madge) Gallegos, 85, of Denver, Colorado died on May 12, 2021. She was born to the late Felix and Florence Gallegos, July 12, 1935, in Denver, Colorado. Magdalena graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in 1953 and received a BA with Distinction from the University of Colorado at Denver.
She is survived by three children Mary Morales, Bernadine Gant, and Arthur Mitchell; and by a sister Debra Gallegos. She is also survived by nine grandchildren (Missy, Nick, Cristina, Elena, Gabriel, Analisa, Devon, Cody and Jerrica) and seven great-grandchildren (Raelynn, Khloe, Ezykiel, Mario, Zoie, Nico and Joaquin.) She is preceded in death by her son Richard Trujillo, parents Felix and Florence Gallegos, and brothers Larry and Donald Gallegos.
Magdalena was raised in the Auraria neighborhood when it was known as West Denver. She received a traditional upbringing and a Catholic education at St. Cajetan’s School on 9th and Lawrence St. in Denver, Colorado. At 13, she began playing the organ at St. Cajetan Church for Sunday Masses, weddings, and funerals. She continued giving her time in the community as a musician, folklorico dancer, and volunteer. She married in 1955 and had four children two of which also attended St. Cajetan’s School. In 1975, Gallegos divorced and became a single parent, raising her two youngest children by herself.
In 1974, Magdalena attended the Cursillo, a weekend retreat that focused on how to become an effective Christian leader. A major emphasis was to take what they learned back to the world which is exactly what she did. She began attending Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and quickly volunteered to lead a choir for the 6pm Sunday Mass. The Mass became the weekly gathering place for the young and old, transitioning from the choir loft to the altar with guitars and voices filled with hope.
That movement was where she and many others found their calling to support the work of the United Farmworkers Union, boycotts, picket lines, and raising money to help those in need. She became active politically in support of Sal Carpio for City Council and Federico Pena for Mayor. After he was elected in a difficult election, she worked for Sal Carpio as his Council Aide for several years.
Magdalena then chose to pursue her life-long dream of attaining a college degree. She enrolled at the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD) on the Auraria Campus in August 1980. She finished her first two years with a 4.0 GPA. She continued at UCD for her undergraduate studies in Ethnic Studies with the help of federal grants, scholarships, student loans and work study. In 1984, Gallegos received her Bachelor of Arts with Distinction from UCD.
While working as a work-study at the Educational Opportunity Program at UCD, she was asked to represent the program at the Colorado Educational Services & Development Association (CESDA) meetings. She became an active member of the organization and was subsequently hired as a College Counselor at the Educational Opportunity Center in 1985. She continued to be an active member of CESDA until her retirement in 2004.
Obtaining an advanced degree opened many opportunities for Magdalena Gallegos. In 1981, she enrolled in an oral history class and wrote a research paper on former residents of Auraria. Since Magdalena Gallegos had lived in the same house in Auraria as her grandmother, Luz Torres, she felt that her connection to Auraria was aligned with this project. Based on that research paper, Magdalena went on to publish many of her works.
She became an unwavering advocate for the continuance of the Displaced Aurarians’ Scholarship. This scholarship would ensure that the families of those displaced because of the campus would be able to build an educational and career path. Months before she passed, Magdalena was ensuring that her papers, books, and documents that supported this effort would be passed on to others to continue the scholarship.
She became the editor and publisher of Southwest Magazine with her late husband John Mitchell. The format focused on people of color in Denver and Colorado including Hispanic/Chicano; African American; Native American and Asian communities. The magazine was very successful and many people were involved in its concept and production.
In 1999, Magdalena Gallegos’ writing and publications came to the attention of Dr. David Conde at Metropolitan State College (now Metropolitan State University of Denver). As a result of his interest, in 2000 her work was included in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 209, Chicano Writers, Third Series with all her published articles, stories, reviews, Hispanic histories, national and local articles were included in the biography.
In 2003, she wrote and produced her first play, Sueños, Magdalena Gallegos also continued writing human interest stories for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario where she was hired as a reporter and later as a columnist. Her column, Straight from the Heart, allowed her to take a new and more personal direction in her writing. She continued to help write a newsletter for her Francis Heights community focusing on the lives of residents there until her passing.
In 2011, Magdalena published her first novel, “Florence and the Butterflies” as a homage to her mother Florence and her story-telling talents. Magdalena’s book was embraced by her family and community as it captured Magdalena’s unique and generous writing style that could be enjoyed by people of all ages.
In 2019, Magdalena received the Denver Public Library’s Eleanor Gehres Award because of her scholarship and life-long service that have enhanced the Western History Collection and its value to the community. In early 2020 Magdalena was a recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for her work at the Community College of Denver and the Denver community.
Above else, Magdalena loved her grandchildren and waited in anticipation for their visits after school or on special occasions. They were always the source of her joy and inspiration.
A memorial service for Magdalena will be held on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 at 2pm, at Su Teatro Performing Arts and Cultural Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204.
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