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Cruz Salas


Cruz Salas’ journey ended on Earth on Dec. 31, 2023. He was born in Globe, Arizona, on April 3, 1936, to Maria Louise and Rosalio Dominguez. He was raised by his mother, grandparents and his Nana Trini Salas.

Many of his life goals touched upon football and dealing with others in the public field. He graduated from Globe High School, making All-State in 1952 and 1953. He attended Palo Verde Junior College, where he earned All-American honors from the Williams National College Team and the Los Angeles Times. While attending NAU, Cruz earned two letters and was on the Frontier Conference first team for two years. He ended his football career at NAU in 1958, as the coach of NAU’s freshman Axebabes. He coached the freshman team to a 5-1 record, including a victory over the freshman team from ASU. His two years of football at NAU earned him an induction to the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame! Cruz scored two touchdowns in the Senior Bowl in Tucson, Arizona. He was one of the few NAU Lumberjacks who were chosen to participate in this bowl. Now you know why Cruz was known as the “Bruising-Full-Back.”

Cruz also coached and taught school in Clifton, Arizona for 10 years. In 1962, his team won the class “B” East football championship. After leaving the teaching- coaching profession, Cruz worked as an education administrator for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in San Carlos, Arizona for 25 years. Next, he served as a county supervisor for Gila County for 12 years.

As the Salas family historian, Cruz succeeded at qualifying the famous “Cross on the Hill” in Globe as a National Historic Site. This took much research and work on Cruz’s part. He was also the first member of the Salas family to receive a college degree from NAU. (Since then, 15 other Salas members have received degrees.)

Cruz married Janet Putnam in 1959. Together they raised two children, Mark and Stephanie. Janet passed away from cancer. In 1974, he married Mary Neufelder and had his third child, Teresa.

After retiring in 2000, Cruz was very active at Holy Angels Church: as an usher, as coordinator of the Memorial Chapel, and as a handyman for many other church projects. One project was spearheading the campaign to get funds to purchase a school bus for Holy Angels School. He also spent many of his retirement years for the homebound through volunteering for the local Meals-On-Wheels program. Cruz was also active in the Knights of Columbus and was elected Grand Knight during those years.

Cruz is survived by his wife Mary Neufelder; children Mark Salas, Stephanie (Les) Mendez and Teresa Salas-Olvera (Jose J. Olvera, Jr.); one brother, Carlos Salas; his grandchildren, Esperanza (Christian) McCorkle, Jesse DeAnda, Jr., Jose J.C. Olvera, Jr. and Markus Olvera; his great-grandson Cruz E. McCorkle; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Cruz’s spirit will long be remembered not only by his family but also by his church and the whole Gila County Community.