Rio Ranchoan and World War II Verne Lucero discusses his memoir, “My Blessed Street,” recently. Gary Herron photo.

He’s been thanked numerous times for his service to his country. Now Verne Lucero is sharing his boyhood memories.
Lucero, who turns 91 next month, decided it was finally time to put his memories into print, which he did with “My Blessed Street,” his “personal memoir,” self-published this summer.
It’s just over 300 pages, but with its large, sans-serif typeface, it’s pretty much a quick read. And it includes unusual adventures.
For instance, who do you know who’s drunk elephant water? This guy did, although he was in a coma for three days afterward.
At the time, Lucero was 7 years old, helping circus workers put up a tent in Santa Fe. He was so hot and tired from the burden that he needed water badly, saw a large tub of it and took a drink.
It didn’t take long for the consequences: “I was stricken in some way, and it would become an arduous chore just to get home to my beloved grandmother.”
When he finally awoke, he discovered he’d missed a chance to see the circus — for free, a trade for helping the workers — and realized, “I obviously was at the threshold of Death.” (Page 66).
Lucero had other adventures along the way:
• Imagine working as a “pearl diver” (dish washer) — standing on a crate — at the Plaza Cafe and then the DeVargas Hotel in Santa Fe at the age of 8. Around that time, he also worked at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.
• Getting lost in the Jemez Mountains, also while 8 years of age, in the area known as Battleship Rock.
• Seeking, and finding, work in a kitchen in Macon, Ga., while on a cross-country trip from New Mexico to Florida with his mother, about to join her new husband, who was in the service and expecting to be shipped overseas during the early days of World War II.
• Working for four years as a youngster at the first of hotelier Conrad Hilton’s hotels in Albuquerque.
• Getting lost again, this time at the age of 24, while on a hunting trip west of Socorro, and circled at his campfire by hungry coyotes. He had a gun, and although he didn’t fire at any of the coyotes, he killed a rabbit for nourishment.
Yes, Lucero survived all of those adventures, as well as a bout with a pedophile and days as an alcoholic.
It’s doubtful many friends of his at Meadowlark Senior Center know what lies behind his cheerful smile. If they read his memoir — Lucero plans to write another — they might be either shocked or impressed, and maybe both.
Lucero acknowledges he’s not a writer. He never finished high school, obtaining a GED just short of his 40th birthday, yet still won gold, silver and bronze awards from the National Veterans Creative Arts festival for his essays.
People may recognize his name as a gifted Spanish-tin artist, with his work including a religious piece he designed “completely from scratch” for the niche at the entrance to the famous La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz., where he also once worked. He also received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award from then-Gov. Bill Richardson in 2007.
One of Lucero’s stories comes from his research and personal papers once owned by Civil War Lt. Col. Francisco Perea, his maternal great-grandfather, a comrade of Kit Carson and a friend of President Abraham Lincoln. Perea was seated in an adjacent suite to Lincoln’s at Ford Theater on April 14, 1865, when Lincoln was assassinated.
“I have a lot of material,” Lucero said, happy that his book can be found at amazon.com.
Now, if he can find another three months and about 12 hours a day, as he did for “My Blessed Street,” he’ll also have a sequel.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer