Victor Vargas was born in Puerto Rico on September 11, 1925, and between then and now has led a most fascinating life. As a young boy, he came to New York with his mother, was there for a short time, and then returned to Puerto Rico. While in New York he was able to skip several grades, and when he returned to New York a second time at the age of 15, he already had two years of college under his belt.
He has had a lifelong love affair with electronics, radio communications and structural engineering. He was drafted during WWII, and served in the Air Force. He was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant within 3 years, and the entirety of his military career occurred stateside. “I wanted to go overseas, but they didn’t let me,” he said, and judging this man’s sense of adventure, that must have been tough. “Oh,” he said, “and the sand storms in Yuma were terrible!” He worked on B25s, and excelled in target shooting as well as the use of the bayonet.
In 1947 he married Anna Josefa Mendoza, a widow who had one son. He was utterly in love with her, expected to spend the rest of his life with her, and then tragedy struck. The only child they had together, a daughter, was still born. Determined to press on and build the American Dream, Victor drove a taxi while he went to Columbia University, and Anna Josefa worked was a nurse. His heart broke once again in 1955 when Anna Josefa died of leukemia.
Victor spent his career in aerospace as well as working for the TVA. He was also employed by Northrup and Boeing, and during the ‘60s lived and worked in Coco Beach, FL. He married again in 1959, and they added a daughter to their blended family. His time at TVA was from 1969 to 1988. It isn’t often that I get to talk to someone who has such an appreciation for the technology that enabled us to break the sound barrier, and when I told him my father had worked for Boeing on the Supersonic Transport, (which never flew, by the way,) his eyes twinkled.
So, on to Victor’s favorites. His favorite President? FDR, and then Ronald Reagan. Victor says he knew the Reagans while he was working in California, and he also claims to have known Bob Hope and his wife, Delores. His favorite food? He has many, but tamales are up there near the top. His favorite film? Gone With The Wind. His favorite songs? Sixteen Tons and The Battle Hymn Of The Republic. He is an avid karaoke fan and when I interviewed him, was sporting his gold medal from the Athens Rehab and Senior Care Center’s domino tournament. His favorite book? La Biblia Santa, or in English, the Holy Bible.
As I am always glad to report, he is happy with the care he gets at Athens Rehab, although I think he would like to be able to have more Puerto Rican food.
His advice for young people? “Get an education. If you have an education, there is nothing you can’t accomplish.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner