SALT LAKE CITY — Arthur Valdez is well known and well liked at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish/Newman Center, where he sits in the front row during Mass so someone can interpret to him, with sign language, what is being said or sung. Using sign language, he sings along with the choir and enjoys the music through the lyrics.
"Everybody knows him and says hello to him on their way to receive the Holy Eucharist," said Tyler Boegler, an interpreter for Valdez.
Valdez said going to Mass is important to him and his faith is constantly growing. "There is always something more to learn," he said, adding that St. Catherine of Siena parishioners are very friendly even though it’s hard for him to mingle.
"I became deaf when I was 2 years old," after a bout with tonsillitis caused him to lose his hearing, Valdez said in an interview with Boegler as an interpreter.
Valdez grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo. He attended a school for the deaf to learn sign language and to read lips. He comes from a family of 13 children, but only one brother and two sisters are still alive. They don’t sign. "I read their lips and speak the best I can," he said.
He was about 16 when he moved to Utah to attend the Ogden School for Deaf. He then moved to Carbon County to complete high school, and stayed there for the next four years.
When he was 21, Valdez moved to Salt Lake City to work at Fred Meyer in the sports medicine department, now called Smith’s Marketplace. He held the job for 27 years before retiring.
Valdez, who is divorced, is the caregiver for two men who also are hearing impaired.
"I live a normal life," Valdez said. "I shop at the grocery store just like everyone else. My life is really easy."
Previously a member of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, where sign language interpretation also is provided, Valdez moved to St. Catherine of Siena/Newman Center because it is closer to his home.
People with disabilities will be celebrated at the Catholics Can Mass on Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. at Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in West Jordan. The Mass is celebrated to recognize the abilities in everyone. All are invited to attend.