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Recognizing a special Colorado father and leader
Photo courtesy: Barela Family

By Joseph Rios

It seems like no matter where Bob Barela has gone or what he has done during his 92-year life, he has made an impact on those around him.

To some of his students who he taught in elementary school and middle school during the 1950’s, Barela is simply known as “Mr. B.”

“If you can believe this, he still keeps in contact with students who he taught back in the 1950’s. They email each other,” said Kathy Barela, who has been married to Barela for 68 years. Kathy said Barela still speaks to three students who he taught in California.

“They love Mr. B. We went to a reunion a number of years ago at the school, and it was just phenomenal to listen to these adults who went on to become educators and lawyers and what not and to hear what an influence he had on their lives,” she continued.

In honor of Father’s Day, La Voz recognizes the life and career of Barela — a man who was previously named Father of the Year by the American Diabetes Association. Barela has seven children — all of whom went to college — 24 grandchildren and seven-great grandchildren.

Barela was born in East Los Angeles in 1929 and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. While he and Kathy were in college, the two met while they were doing field work at a settlement house where children came to after school for supervision while their parents were away. Barela graduated from California State University with a B.A. in Secondary Education.

He impacted countless lives as an elementary and high school principal, an assistant superintendent, a college instructor and a school board member at La Escuela de Guadalupe in Denver — a Catholic dual-language school.

“If you ask Bob what his priority in life was, he would answer his faith, family and country,” said Kathy.

Outside of his time impacting the lives of students, Barela was a civil rights activist who fought for Colorado’s Hispanic community.

Barela was asked by the White House in 1975 to select 22 Colorado Hispanics to meet with former President Gerald Ford at the Hilton Hotel in Denver. Hispanic leaders that Barela selected all addressed their concerns to the President, and the meeting led to 500 multi-dwelling units being given to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) for construction.

Outside of the United States, Barela worked in the Dominican Republic to improve the country’s educational curriculum for the Ministry of Education in the country. He also represented the United States of America in the 1970’s at the inauguration of former Mexican President Luis Echeverria.

This past Easter, the Barelas finally got to reunite with their family who came from New Jersey, Tennessee and Alaska for a family reunion.

“We hadn’t been around family during the pandemic. So it was just wonderful to all be out at our daughter’s home in Ken Caryl enjoying each other’s company,” said Kathy.

Barela also holds the title of author to the children’s book “The Cat With The Bat, Who Hit The Ball Over The Wall” — based off former Hispanic Colorado Rockies All-Star Andres Gallaraga.

“(Barela is) very personable. He loves people,” Kathy said. “He’s a people person. And he’s very kind and gentle.”

This Father’s Day, La Voz honors a man with the best of those qualities who has given his time and energy to family, faith and community.





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