Legacy of Love, Family, and Heritage: The Manuel Valdez Jr. Story

An American labor shortage created during WWI sent recruiters of the Rock Island Railroad deep into the heart of Mexico to find hard working young men to do the grueling work of building their railroad track.

When asked what is Mr. Manuel Valdez Jr.’s legacy, his children agree it is love; love of family and community.

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An American labor shortage created during WWI sent recruiters of the Rock Island Railroad deep into the heart of Mexico to find hard working young men to do the grueling work of building their railroad track. The Valdez brothers answered the call. Before making the move, Manuel Valdez Sr. and Guadalupe Sapien married in 1919 in the city of La Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico. Then Jesus Reyes and her children Juan, Guadalupe, and newlyweds Manuel Sr. and wife, Guadalupe, left their families and friends far away in Mexico to build a life in West Des Moines, Iowa in America. The Valdezs built a life and raised their families in Valley Junction. Manuel Sr. and his brother, Juan, worked for the Rock Island Railroad as many Mexican immigrants did for nearly 80 years. As employees of the Rock Island Railroad, they lived with their children in the boxcar community known as Hyde Park named after the superintendent of the railroad company. Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Valdez Sr. bought a home south of the railroad tracks near Fifth Street in Valley Junction. Later they bought a home at 116 12th Street where they raised 13 children. Manuel J. Valdez, Jr. was born on June 9, 1928, the first born son to Guadalupe and Manuel Valdez, Sr.

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