Arvada was a much different place when the Gimenos moved there.
Streetcars still ran between Arvada and Golden, many roads were unpaved and their home on 50th Avenue and Garrison Street was not yet part of the city, said Irene Gimeno, now 91.
That was in 1948.
“One time I was driving and wondered if I could hold my breath to drive through Arvada, and I could,” said Emil Gimeno, now 92. “You couldn’t do that now.”
The Gimenos moved to Arvada from Denver because of the good schools and safe neighborhoods to raise their children — nine in total.
“We had wonderful neighbors and felt very welcomed,” Irene said.
The neighborhood children spent many hours playing in the Gimenos’ large yard, which Emil said was the best in the neighborhood at the time.
Irene and Emil’s families were migrant workers from Mexico.
Emil’s genetic ancestry actually goes back to Spanish royalty, according to DNA tracing by National Geographic, his daughter Patricia Wooten said.
Emil was born in El Paso, Texas; Irene was born in Mexico and became a naturalized citizen in 1943.
Irene and Emil met when they were just 19 and 20 respectively.
“I went dancing with a friend at the casino dance hall and when I came out all the boys who didn’t want to dance were standing outside to meet girls, and he snatched me up,” Irene said.
The couple married six months later in 1941 and celebrated their 72nd anniversary on June 7.
“She wouldn’t let me get away,” Emil said with a laugh. “We have had a very good marriage.”
Not long after they married, Emil joined the Navy to serve in World War II. He served on the USS Yorktown in the South Pacific for about a year and a half.
“We were the only aircraft carrier never hit,” Emil said.
While Emil served overseas, Irene fought the battle on the homefront and worked at Rocky Mountain Arsenal to help build cluster bombs while her two sisters helped her raise her children.
Following the war, Emil started his own construction business and was the contractor for several large projects, including the restoration of Bent’s Old Fort in 1975.
“I started a construction company so my children could go to college,” Emil said. “Going into business for myself was the best decision I ever made.”
Emil went to night school himself to advance his knowledge and his business to support his family.
“The only way to advance myself was through education,” he said.
Emil even built the house at Nelson Street and 77th Drive where he and Irene have lived for more than 30 years and wrote a book about the restoration of Bent’s Old Fort — “The Adobe Castle of the Santa Fe Trail: The History and Reconstruction of Bent’s Old Fort.”
Irene also went back to school and received an associate’s degree in fine arts from Red Rocks Community College.
Throughout their lives, both Irene and Emil have traveled around the world and always came home to Arvada.
“We’ve had a very good life,” Emil said.