April 7, 1935 ~ December 14, 2017
William H. Gonzalez was born in Monticello, Utah, on April 7, 1935, to Jose Prudencio and Carolina Velarde Gonzalez. For the past several years, he suffered from advancing dementia and pulmonary fibrosis, and died peacefully at St. Joseph’s Villa in Salt Lake City, Utah, on December 14, 2017 with his family and close friends at his side.
Bill attended school in Monticello, graduating from Monticello High School where he played basketball and, as a senior in 1953, was elected student body president. After attending San Jose State College, Bill served as a medic in the U.S. Army, stationed in Chicago. At the age of 26, he pursued Catholic studies in Spain at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, which awarded him a Licentiate in Theology. In 1970, he returned to Salt Lake City and began as a teaching assistant at the University of Utah. In 1977, he received his Ph.D. in Spanish. Then, as a professor of thousands of students during his long teaching career at the U of U, he also served as tutor, counselor, mentor and positive role model for many.
It took William 12 years to compile and transcribe sacred religious ballads for two of his books, including “Romancero Religioso de la Tradicion Oral” (Religious Ballads of the Oral Tradition) and “Alabados, Alabanzas y Oraciones de la Neuva Mexico, 1598-1998” (Hymns, Praises & Prayers of New Mexico). Growing up in Monticello, Bill heard people chanting these ballads. He was also given the notebook in which his father had written the texts of many of them. He researched the Archivo in Madrid, which owns a huge collection of religious ballads, often written on little pieces of pa-per. He spent summers traveling throughout southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico gathering oral recordings and written documents of these religious ballads. He was the first person to categorize and publish them. These scholarly books were well received in the United States, Spain and Mexico. In 1997, William was invited to join the Royal Spanish Academy. At that time, he was only the second U.S. citizen and one of 26 members outside of Spain to be so recognized.
William was involved with the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center, and he and others realized the center would be better served with priests from a religious order. They discussed this idea with Bishop William K. Weigand, who sent requests to various orders; in 1982, the Dominicans arrived. Around the same time, Bill met with other Catholic Hispanics to express the need for a Catholic Mass in Spanish and were able to get Bishop Weigand’s support. By the mid-1980s, the local Spanish-speaking population was finally able to celebrate the Mass in Spanish.
He served as vice-president of the Education Committee of SOCIO (Spanish-Speaking Organization for Community, Integrity and Organization), which was very active in the 1970s and ’80s.
Bill is survived by his siblings Pauline G. Pelliccia, Angeline King, Johnson Gonzalez, Patricia Jurasich, and Lenore G. Mille; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grandnephews. He was predeceased by his parents and siblings Lucian Gonzalez, Julia S. Pascali, Clyde Gonzalez and Ignacio Gonzalez. He was also predeceased by his life-long best friend Clyde Christensen of Monticello.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center on January 13, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Carmelite Monastery at 5714 Holladay Blvd., Salt Lake City, Utah 84121 or Basic Needs Services at 437 West 200 South in Salt Lake City, Utah 84104. Online condolences may be offered at www.odonnellandsons.co.