Our people: Indomitable spirit
March 5, 2011
Liliana Castillo: Freedom New Mexico Benny Gallegos enjoys his car, a 1991 Oldsmobile 88, even though he can't drive it and enlists his family members to take him for a drive as often as possible. Gallegos lost his arms after sustaining injuries from an electrical accident.
Clovis resident Benerito Gallegos’ life changed when in 1961, an electrical accident cost him both his arms.
A co-worker switched the wrong breaker and blasted him with 14,000 volts; enough electricity to knock him from the top of the tower he was working on. The electricity went in the right side of his body and exited out the left, taking skin and flesh with it. Both his arms were charred and while spending three years in hospitals, they became gangrenous and had to be amputated piece by piece until he had no arms left.
He had nine children to feed and any chance of him making up his lost wages through a lawsuit expired with a statue of limitations while he lay in hospitals all over the country.
“I walked a lot,” Gallegos said. “I’d get up at midnight and visit the graves of my parents. I wanted to know why.”
It took years, but Gallegos moved on and now enjoys telling his stories to his nine children, 37 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren.
In his time in construction, Gallegos helped build the Alamogordo and Universal dams in Fort Sumner and helped build the road from Portales to Cannon Air Force Base.
His prized possession is his 1991 Oldsmobile 88 and he insists on his daughter and caretaker Viviane washing it and getting the oil changed. One of his favorite pastimes is to have his family members drive him around in his car.