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Obituary for Servilio Ivan Valdez

On June 6, 1980 Servilio Valdez stepped boldly, joyously, and bravely into freedom as he landed at Key West, Florida. Servilio was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba on May 24, 1954, to father Amado Valdez-Morales, and mother Sofia Lasval-Ortega, both deceased. His father succumbed at an early age to a virus brought back to Cuba by soldiers fighting in Angola. Servilio had two brothers—Gregorio and Fabian Valdez-Lasval, also deceased. Servilio grew up with his grandparents whom he loved dearly. His grandfather was blind, and he did everything possible to help them, making sure that they had enough to eat, as food was very scarce and difficult to obtain in Castro’s Cuba. From his beloved grandparents he received the gift of religion and profound faith in Jesus—a forbidden subject that had to be taught in secret. Servilio was a great animal lover. While in Cuba, he enjoyed training his brother’s black stallion; in the US, he named all his German Shepherds Polaris, in honor of the brave boat from which he was rescued. He also loved music and played the acoustic guitar in a band in Cuba. Throughout his life, he would spend hours listening to his favorite performers. He left Cuba in the 1980 Mariel boat lift flotilla in a craft that was damaged by Cuban military in an attempt to sabotage its arrival into the U.S. The boat, named Polaris, was rescued by a U.S. helicopter as it was sinking, and managed to arrive safely. After landing in Key West, Servilio spent a few months at Fort McCoy in Tomah, Wisconsin, where Cuban refugees were temporarily located. From there he moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin--his home for several years before locating to Washington, DC with his wife Ruth. One of Servilio’s greatest passions was cars and driving, and the first thing he wanted to do after arriving in the US was get his driver’s license. Despite the language barrier, he managed to memorize the learner’s manual and pass the written test, fulfilling his dream. While in DC, Servilio worked in pizza delivery, and using his red Ford F150 pickup, established and operated a business hauling and moving furniture and household articles throughout DC and the nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs. He also enjoyed being Ruth’s personal chauffeur, driving her everywhere. It was also in DC that he became involved in running marathons. He completed two Army 10-milers, and three Marine Corps 26.2 mile marathons. Here also, he and his wife Ruth became avid cyclists, covering hundreds of miles weekly on the beautiful Potomac River and Maryland and Virginia bike trails. Some of the most memorable moments of his 25 years in DC were the visits from Ruth’s children Beth, Tony and Debbie. They loved the city, and especially looked forward to his delicioso arroz con pollo y patacones (delicious chicken with rice and fried plantains) that Servilio, an excellent cook, delighted in preparing for them. One of his greatest pleasures was the anticipation and planning for these visits. In 2009, Servilio and Ruth decided to return to La Crosse to be closer to family. In La Crosse, Servilio continued to work his Ford pickup truck, adding scrap metal collection to the hauling business. He was also employed at the restaurant Tequila. Throughout his life, Servilio possessed an unfailingly positive attitude and an uninhibited spontaneity—ready for action at a moment’s notice. A few years after returning to La Crosse, after being diagnosed with a rare incurable progressive neurological illness, he maintained that positive attitude with great courage and strength, and without complaint, throughout the long years of his illness. Servilio is survived by his wife, Ruth Lynne Guzman; her three children, Elizabeth (Max Bigelow) Guzman, Speedway, IN; Deborah Guzman- (Mike) Stoeffler, La Crosse, WI; Anthony Blaine Guzman, Lake Worth, FL; sister-in-law Susan Bea (Bill) Schmidt, La Crosse, WI, and numerous step- grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:00 am, Friday, September 11, 2020 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman, 530 Main Street, La Crosse. Monsignor Richard Gilles will be the Celebrant. Entombment will follow in the Catholic Cemetery, La Crosse. Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Homes and Crematory, Woodruff Chapel, La Crosse, is assisting the family in their time of loss.