Pueblo County Hall of Fame to induct 4 alum in 2021
The Pueblo County High School Alumni Foundation will induct four new members in to the school’s Hall of Fame on Sept. 30.
Inductees include the late Elizabeth Villegas, Darrel Contreras, Russell DeSalvo and Ted Hernandez.
A hall of Fame ceremony will be held at the Pueblo Convention Center at 6 p.m., preceded by a 5:30 p.m. social.
Tickets are on sale until Sept. 23 and cost $50 for individuals and $230 for corporate tables.
Elizabeth Villegas, class of 1966
Villegas graduated from the then-University of Southern Colorado in 1970 and coached track and field at Penrose High School for four years before returning to Pueblo County. She distinguished herself as an exceptional teacher and multisport coach for the Hornets over the course of 24 years.
“She was very pro-female athletics… We were of that generation that had just started Title IX,” said Cherie Toussaint, a fellow coach and educator at Pueblo County. “In our schooling, there wasn’t much opportunity for women and she was one of the handful in District 70 that fought like the dickens to make sure girls were recognized.”
Villegas coached track and field, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball for the Hornets. Among her many achievements, she was a recipient of the Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year Award, won multiple volleyball coach of the year awards and was inducted into the Greater Pueblo Sports Association Hall of Fame.
“She is known throughout the entire state,” Toussaint said. “She just reminds me of what you get into coaching for; the love of the game … she did love the game and she loved the kids.”
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Darrel Contreras, class of 1971
Contreras is a Hornet alum devoted to serving the Avondale and Vineland communities.
He served as Avondale Sacred Heart Church’s Parish Council president, president of the Avondale Water Board and a founder of Minorities Interested in the Need to Develop Scholastics (MINDS).
“I don’t do things for recognition,” Contreras said. “I just like doing things for people and I appreciate my daughter, my family and all the letters that were sent in regards to what I have done. I just appreciate that. They make me a happy man.”
Contreras was born and raised in Avondale. He created the Avondale clean-up and was an organizer for multiple community events including the community’s Easter egg hunt and Veterans Day parade.
He remembers his time spent growing up as a child in Avondale fondly.
“It was a great time to grow up in that town,” Contreras said. “A lot of people were related in that town but if you weren’t related, you still knew everybody. At that time you could get a pop bottle and you could give a nickel for it … We had a few little stores over there that we traded with.
“Overall, it was just fantastic to live in.”
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Ted Hernandez, Class of 1980
Following graduation from Pueblo County High School, Hernandez attended the then-University of Southern Colorado to study music. However, after leaving the university in 1983, he started his career at Spectrum Community Services (Sharmar), a statewide service provider for those with developmental disabilities.
“I have been doing this for 38½ years,” Hernandez said. “I started as a direct care staff and then moved my way up through leadership. I had the opportunity to purchase the company back in 2002. I have been the sole owner since that time. We provide services in Pueblo, Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.”
Hernandez also devotes his life to philanthropy in Pueblo.
He has donated more than $1 million to arts and sports organizations. Hernandez was a performer and athlete himself. He participated in band, choir, drama, wrestled and played football while at Pueblo County.
“I am just really honored to be inducted into the hall of fame,” Hernandez said. “It came to me as a complete surprise. It is not something I would have set my sights on.
“Everything that I have done with regards to my donations to the community, I have done almost exclusively anonymously.”
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Russell DeSalvo, Class of 1987
DeSalvo is the president and CEO of PuebloPlex, the Pueblo Chemical Depot’s formally recognized Local Redevelopment Authority. He has public sector experience working for both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve Bank.
“I came back to Pueblo in the mid ’90s, ‘temporarily’ and never left,” DeSalvo said. “My partners and I started the real estate company and that’s morphed into a real estate company, a mortgage company and all types of real estate work over the years.
“But for the past 10 years, I have been working for PuebloPlex.”
DeSalvo has served on the Association of Defense Communities; Colorado State University System Board of Governors; Colorado State University Pueblo Foundation; Legacy Bank Advisory Board; and Pueblo Economic Development Corporation. He is the current treasurer for the CSU System Board of Governors.
“Some of the best years of my life were spent within the walls of Pueblo County High School,” DeSalvo said. “… Another big thing is just the uniqueness of the environment at Pueblo County High School. You felt more like a family member than a student.”
Pueblo Chieftain and La Junta Tribune-Democrat reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com