|Simon H. Vega|
October 8, 1935|
Los Fresnos, Texas, U.S.
|Died||May 12, 2017
Los Fresnos, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation||retired educator, businessman|
|Children||Rosie Mezouari and Rene Elvis Vega|
Simon H. Vega (October 8, 1935 – May 12, 2017) was a high school teacher who became a personal friend of singer Elvis Presley while the two served together in the United States Army in Germany from 1958–1960. In 1993, Vega turned his house into a museum called "Little Graceland" located in his native Los Fresnos in Cameron County north of Brownsville, Texas. "Little Graceland" is loosely patterned on Presley's mansion, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Vega was one of three children born in Los Fresnos to Pablo Vega (1895–1969) and the former Estefana Hinojosa (1900–2003), she a native of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. His sister is Matea V. Garcia of Chicago; his brother now deceased, Jose Isabel Vega of Los Fresnos. He and his wife, Teresa Vega, named a son, Rene Elvis Vega, after Presley.
In 1978, a year after Presley's early death, Vega composed a song, "The Ballad of Elvis Presley". He produced three thousand copies and has five remaining ones for his personal collection. 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 considers 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"), holds two Elvis festivals annually in January and August, the months of Presley's birth and death. The festivities include live music, food and beverages, a lookalike contest, a sing-alike competition, automobile shows, trivia questions, and museum tours. The highlight of the festivities is 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 recalls fondly that Presley wanted equal treatment from the other soldiers, not favoritism because of his celebrity status.
When Presley died, Vega says that he was so personally devastated that he began collecting anything with a connection to his friend. Vega's countless pieces of memorabilia are displayed in glass cases or line the walls of the museum. He has a bottle of "Love Me Tender" shampoo, the same name as a Presley song and film. There are 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 has also constructed a doghouse-size replica of Presley's boyhood home in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Vega considers Presley the unequaled entertainer of the 20th century who exuded charisma through his records and personal appearances. "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," says Vega. Despite heart and hip problems, Vega hosts some fifty visitors to his museum each week. Simon Vega passed away on Friday, May 12, 2017. He was buried on May 15, 2017 at Los Cuates Cemetery in Los Fresnos.
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