He’s the center of attention one last time

David Stevens

“Corina Corina where you been so long
“Corina Corina where you been so long
“I ain’t had no lovin’ since you’ve been gone.”

Joe Urioste loved to strum his guitar and sing that song.
“He’d sit out on the porch and sing it,” said Judy Barela, one of his three daughters. “He’d get together with his neighbor and they’d sit outside and play the guitar.”
That’s one of the good memories family members will always have when they think about Urioste. There are many more.
“He used to come to my house and roll around on the floor and play with the kids,” Barela said. “He’d do anything to play with the kids.
“And he loved attention. He’d come over and be like, ‘Oh, my back hurts.’ If nobody paid attention, he’d get mad. When he had his heart attack (about two years ago) I remember he said, ‘Well, was I in the newspapers?’ He loved attention.”
“He loved animals,” said Maryalice Trujillo, one of Urioste’s 16 siblings. “We couldn’t even think about seeing a stray looking real skinny because if it were up to him he’d bring him home and fatten him up.
“There was this really tough side of him, but then he also had this side that if somebody was in need of help, he would help them if he could. He had a heart that would melt.”
Joe Urioste was not a newsmaker. He was a retired railroad worker and one-time nightclub bouncer who enjoyed riding motorcycles.
There is no compelling reason to tell his story today, other than his family thought he might like being the center of attention one last time.
Last July, Urioste was cutting weeds on Clovis’ Locust Street. Soon after, he developed flu-like symptoms and grew progressively sicker. He spent several days in Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis before being transferred to a hospital in Lubbock.
Doctors in Lubbock diagnosed Urioste with West Nile virus, Barela said. Based on media reports, family members believe he was the area’s first to contract the mosquito-borne virus this year.
“I came to his bed and said, ‘Joe you’re a real celebrity now. It says in the paper you came down with West Nile. You were on TV and on the radio and everybody knows what happened to you,’ Trujillo said.
“I know he liked hearing that.”
The media really reported a 68-year-old man had contracted West Nile, but the family knew who they were talking about.
Urioste, a diabetic for 20 years, fought West Nile for two months, losing almost 20 pounds in the process. Only 5-foot-4 and 115 pounds when he began the battle, he needed weeks of rehabilitation to regain enough strength to walk.
He made it back to his Clovis home on Nov. 8, but became disoriented and had to return to the hospital on Nov. 11.
He died on Thursday.
It’s not known whether the official cause of Urioste’s death will be listed as West Nile or complications related to his diabetes or another reason.
This much is known:
Joe Urioste had a strong work ethic. At 68, he was cutting weeds, remember.
He was “go, go, go, all the time,” Barela said. “He would push himself to get things done before a certain time, like he was competing against himself.”
And he was scrappy, aggressive, with a no-nonsense approach to just about everything. He was a 5-foot-4-inch bouncer, remember.
Mostly Joe Urioste was an average guy who left his mark on our world through his survivors.
“This has been hard,” said Barela, an 18-year-old student at Clovis Community College, “but I’m trying to keep my mind off things and go forward.
“I’m going for my nursing degree and I’m thinking ‘Well, Daddy would want me to hurry and do what I’ve got to do.’”
Make him proud, Judy.

David Stevens is editor for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-6991, ext. 310.