‘King Louie’ known for murals, youth work

This is one of many murals artist Louis “King Louie” Gonzalez painted around the Grand Valley. Gonzalez, 59, died Tuesday at Palisade Living Center. Services will be at 3 p.m. July 21 at Riverside Park in Grand Junction.

Louis “King Louie” Gonzalez is seen here in 2010 in California.

Louis “King Louie” Gonzalez, at left in white shirt, in 2002 after the completion of one of his many murals on the side of a garage owned by Dickie Lewis of Palisade.

King Louie’s reputation in the Grand Valley wasn’t always regal.

At age 17, Louis Gonzalez broke into a vehicle and stole items, which landed him a trip to jail and eventually a stint on probation. It also led to life-altering lessons, Gonzalez told The Daily Sentinel in an August 2002 interview.

“You can’t hold a beer in one hand and a grudge in the other,” Gonzalez told the newspaper. “You can’t achieve anything that way.”

Friends and family said Gonzalez walked that talk.

Gonzalez died Tuesday night at Palisade Living Center with one of his five daughters, Santana, by his side. He was 59. A celebration of his life is scheduled for 3 p.m. July 21 at Riverside Park.

A former professional boxer, Gonzalez once ran a downtown Grand Junction boxing club, The Kingsmen. He was also widely known for his striking murals — dueling Aztec warriors or scenes of wildlife — which once graced the outside of building walls in the Riverside neighborhood, the entryway of East Middle School and a former downtown restaurant, Cork n’ Embers. A white buffalo mural painted in 2002 on Dickie Lewis’ garage in Palisade still remains.

“I had talked to him for years about doing it,” Lewis said. “He finally did ... finished it in a week and didn’t charge a penny. Just friendship.”

An attorney with the Colorado Public Defender’s Office in the early 1970s, Lewis said he met Gonzalez after he’d run afoul of the law on minor charges.

“He decided he wasn’t going to be one of those kids,” Lewis said. “He changed everything.”

The men remained friends over the years. Gonzalez worked tirelessly to raise money in order to take his local boxing proteges to competitions on the Front Range, Lewis said.

When he wasn’t working with local youth, Gonzalez might be remembered by Grand Valley residents as the guy behind the wheel of his distinctive, customized low-rider. He’d hung a tiny chandelier from the middle interior dome lamp.

“He’d etched rose (designs) into the rear window of the car,” Lewis said.

There were other media: Gonzalez decorated elk hides, bear skulls and drapes, among other items, with brass tacks.

“If he’d lived to be 90, Louie would have been the eccentric on the block,” Lewis said.

His sister, Bonnie Valdez of California, said “The King” nickname stuck from his childhood. He was born in Ogden, Utah, and raised in Grand Junction.

A high-school dropout who eventually obtained a diploma in hotel management, Gonzalez constantly stressed the value of education to youth he met, in or out of the boxing ring.

“He was always drawn to the kids, trying to help them stay out of gangs,” Valdez said.


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