La Feria News

Remembering the Man Who Remembered the King

In 1993, Los Fresnos resident Simon Vega turned his home into a museum in honor of Elvis Presley. Photo: LFN Archive

“Little Graceland” Raconteur and Curator Simon H. Vega Passes

Vega first met Presley at Fort Hood before they became “army buddies” while serving together in Germany from 1958-60. Photo: Courtesy Vega Family

Simon Vega was born and raised in Los Fresnos, Texas. He was beloved by many in the community. Vega, who was born October 8, 1935, was a man of many talents. He taught as a high school teacher for the Los Fresnos School District, later driving a bus for them when he retired. He also taught driving with Benavidez Driving School, was a barber, and was a founding member of the Los Fresnos Softball Little League.

However, Simon Vega was best known, and will be remembered for years to come, for the annual festival he’d host at his own home, a house converted into a museum dedicated to the memory of the King of Rock n’ Roll – Elvis Presley.

The King must have made quite an impression on Vega when they met while serving in the Army in Germany from 1958 to 1960.

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 would fondly recall that Presley wanted equal treatment from the other soldiers, not favoritism because of his celebrity status.

Vega never forgot the friend he’d made and in 1978, a year after Presley’s untimely death, Vega composed a song, “The Ballad of Elvis Presley”. He would produce three thousand copies, with five purportedly remaining in his personal collection.

In 1993, Vega turned his house into a museum to Presley, dubbing it “Little Graceland.”

Located in his native Los Fresnos in Cameron County north of Brownsville, Texas, “Little Graceland” is loosely modeled after Presley’s mansion, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.

When Presley died, Vega said that he was so personally devastated that he began collecting anything he could find with a connection to Elvis. Vega’s countless pieces of memorabilia are displayed in glass cases or line the walls of the museum.

Included in the eclectic museum’s collection is 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 throughout the years and vacationers and winter residents heading to South Padre Island began to stop by 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.

Luis Salazar from Laredo Texas entertains the crowd of faithful Elvis fans with his energetic tributes to the King of Rock n’ Roll during the 2015 festival. Photo: Victor Moreno/LFN Archive

Vega, with assistance of the Los Fresnos Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Los Fresnos, held the Elvis festival annually in the month of January, the month of Presley’s birth. The festivities included live music, food and beverages, an Elvis look-alike contest, an Elvis sing-alike competition, automobile shows, trivia questions, and museum tours. The highlight of the festivities were the Presley impersonators, professional and otherwise, that would come from far and wide to perform the Elvis hits on stage.

The 2017 Elvis Festival orignally scheduled for January 14th was cancelled when Vega, who had hosted the Elvis Festival for 30 plus years, was hospitalized for health reasons. He had been hopeful at the time that his health would improve so that he would be able to promote and host the 2018 Elvis Festival in January 2018.

Despite heart and hip problems, Vega, with the help of his daughter Rosalva Vega Mezouari, continued to host some fifty visitors to his museum each week before he passed away of respiratory failure on Friday, May 12, 2017. He was 81 years old.

Mezouari said with her father’s passing, she isn’t sure at this time if she will continue to keep Little Graceland open but that she appreciated all the people who have visited the museum and the support the family has received.

Vega first met Presley at Fort Hood, TX before they became “army buddies” while serving together in Germany from 1958-60. Portrait taken March 1958 in Fort Hood. Photo: Courtesy Vega Family

Vega is preceded in death by his parents, Pablo Vega and Estefana Hinojosa Vega; as well as a brother Jose Isabel Vega; and one grandson, Jack Michael Vega.

Left behind to cherish his memory are his loving wife of 59 years, Teresa Lopez Vega; children: Rosalva Vega Mezouari (Farid), Rene (Karen) Foster Vega; one sister, Matea Garcia (Juventino) ; four grandchildren: Karmen Marie Vega, Lauren Elizabeth Vega, Miriam Grace Vega, and Roman Alexander Vega; as well as many other relatives.

Graveside services were held at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 15, 2017 at Los Cuates Cemetery in Los Fresnos, TX with military honors under the auspices of VFW Post 2035 of Brownsville, TX.

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