| Simon Hinojosa Vega
(Texas educator who promoted the music of Elvis Presley)
|Born|| October 8, 1935 |
Cameron County, Texas, USA
|Died|| May 12, 2017 (aged 81) |
Los Fresnos, Texas
|Spouse|| Teresa Lopez Vega (married c. 1958-2017, his death)
|Service/branch|| United States Army|
|Years of service||1958-1960|
Simon Hinojosa Vega (October 8, 1935 – May 12, 2017) was a high school educator who became a friend of singer Elvis Presley while the two served together from 1958 to 1960 in the United States Army in the former West Germany In 1993, Vega turned his house into a museum called "Little Graceland" located in his native Los Fresno in Cameron County north of Brownsville, Texas. Little Graceland is loosely patterned on Presley's former mansion, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Vega was also at times a barber, an instructor of driver's education, and a school bus driver. He was one of three children of Jose Isabel Vega and the former Estefana Hinojosa, hence his middle name. His mother was originally from St. Luis Potsi, Mexico. Vega and his wife, the former Teresa Lopez, named a son, Rene Elvis Vega, after Presley. They also had a daughter, Rosalva Vega Mezouari, who helped her father to establish the museum.
Promoting Elvis Presley
In 1978, a year after Presley's early death, Vega composed a song, "The Ballad of Elvis Presley." He produced three thousand copies. Little Graceland is a home converted into a shrine to the man dubbed "The King" of rock and roll music. The museum contains many pictures of Presley, some with Vega, which the museum owner considered among his most prized possessions.
Vega, with assistance from the Los Fresnos Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Los Fresnos (meaning "ash trees"), held two Elvis festivals annually in January and August, the months of Presley's birth and death. The festivities have included live music, food and beverages, a lookalike contest, a sing-alike competition, automobile shows, trivia questions, and museum tours. The highlight of the festivities was the impersonators that come from far and wide to perform the Elvis hits on stage.
On February 6, 1958, Vega was inducted into the Army at Fort Carson Colorado, and was sent to Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas, for his four-week basic training. During that same period of time, Presley arrived at Fort Hood from Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas. At Fort Hood, Vega introduced his wife Teresa to Presley for a photograph. Teresa recalls that Elvis was nervous while he placed his arm around her for the picture. After the picture was taken, Elvis responded, "Gracias." The photo of Elvis and Teresa is among those in Little Graceland. Although Vega had met Elvis at Fort Hood, the two did not become friends until they reached the barracks in August 1958 at Freiburg in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. They were assigned to Company D Spearhead 3rd Army Division. While awaiting a meal, Vega reintroduced himself to Presley, and the two became "army buddies" who often shared guard duty. Vega recalled that Presley wanted equal treatment from the other soldiers, not favoritism because of his celebrity status.
Vega was so devastated at the death of Elvis that he began collecting anything with a connection to his friend. Vega's memorabilia are displayed in glass cases or line the walls of the museum. The items include a bottle of "Love Me Tender" shampoo, key chains, playing cards, dolls, pocketknives, neckties, watches, and a complete set of Presley collector plates. Word of Little Graceland spread nationally, as vacationers and winter residents heading to South Padre Island on the Gulf of Mexico stopped to view the replica of the gates of Graceland in front of Vega's house. Vega also constructed a doghouse-size replica of Presley's boyhood home in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Vega considered Presley the unequaled entertainer of the 20th century who exuded charisma through his records and personal appearances. He said, "Once you got to know him, Elvis was a really good guy, but he was never an ordinary guy. Elvis liked to see people happy. That's part of why he sang and entertained the people." Despite heart and hip problems, Vega hosted some fifty visitors to his museum each week.
Four years after Vega's death, Little Graceland remains open to the public. It is located at 701 Ocean Blvd, Los Fresnos, TX 78566-3672, twenty-three miles from South Padre and seventeen miles from Brownsville.
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