DEC. 6, 2000 — On the evening
of Nov. 25, Paul and Lydia Trujillo traveled from their Arroyo
Seco home to the Dandy Burger Restaurant in Espanola.
“He had a little heartburn that night — all that mustard on his
burger,” said his daughter Felicia Trujillo. “He had a heart
attack that night and died in his sleep.”
A former county-extension agent for Rio Arriba County, Paul
Trujillo was 83 years old when he died.
Paul and Lydia had been married for 49 years.
“All that time you are Mrs. Somebody, and then, all of a sudden,
there you are,” said their daughter Camilla Trujillo.
“I was very proud of him. He was a cool dad,” Felicia Trujillo
said. “We spent so much time camping, fishing. There’s just so
“My father grew up in Taos,” Felicia Trujillo said. “He was a
sheep herder. Back then, Taos was a lot more open. Not many
people lived there. It was a whole different world. Winters were
real then. All he ever talked about was growing up. And then
there was the war.”
A veteran of World War II, Trujillo joined the Army when he was
“He and his buddies all signed up together,” Camilla Trujillo
said. “Eventually, they would keep each other alive.”
On April 9, 1942, over 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers
were captured by the Japanese. Trujillo’s unit was captured at
Clark Air Force Base in the Phillipines. The soldiers were
marched 55 miles to San Fernando and taken by rail to Capas,
where they walked another 8 miles to Camp O’Donnell. Starving
and dehydrated, many men fell. Those unable to rise were killed
by the Japanese. Of the original group, only 54,000 survived the
Bataan Death March and reached the camp.
“My father grew up in a time when many people still believed in
the supernatural,” Camilla Trujillo said. “Then he made his
journey. He travelled from one reality — sweet, innocent,
barefoot — to another. He struggled the rest of his life to
grasp those two realities.”
Paul Trujillo was kept at the camp for 43 months. Afflicted with
malaria, the 6-foot-tall young man soon weighed only 100 pounds.
Close to death, he traded chocolate for medicine, treated
himself and was soon well.
“Other veterans that I know, they closed up about the war,”
Felicia Trujillo said. “He was the total opposite. He never
“He was always telling us stories, stories that were true,
either about Taos or the war. I was listening all my life,”
Camilla Trujillo said. “I think he was processing all that had
happened. I always wondered why. Most of his stories were
horrible. Some were funny, but that was his reality.”
“I feel that he gave me a sense of endurance,” Felicia Trujillo
said. “He was such a strong man. But he came back different. My
aunts told me that he was open and easy going before the war.
Afterwards, he changed. Growing up, I was his pal, a tomboy. We
dug holes together, pruned trees, stacked wood. He was closed,
not very social. I think I picked some of that up.”
“My father was the only member of his family to receive his
master’s degree,” Camilla Trujillo said. “He loved books, loved
learning. He knew so many things and so many people. He spent
the rest of his life planting trees. It was his way, his way of
A few weeks ago, Trujillo took a prayer card from the floor of
the Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz.
“It was a prayer about sheep, about comfort. He loved it,”
Felicia Trujillo said. “My mother scolded him a bit at first for
taking it, but she soon let it go. All the other cards in the
church had been collected and put away days before. Somehow, at
the place where he sat that night, that card was waiting for
“I made a decision to buy my father a Christmas present this
year and every year. Not a shirt or cologne but something that
supported his love of life and his longing for a good life for
himself and his family,” Camilla Trujillo said. “He loved his
children and his granddaughters. He had a great sense of humor,
and I know in my heart that he is with me, even if I’m not too
sure where he is. Is he in heaven? Is he still here?”
The New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)