His eyes are full of stories, Prospero Montoya remembers when he was drafted to fight for his country when he was just a teenager.
“The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, and that was the second day that he was in the service,” said his son Hubert Montoya.
He became a scout for the 144th infantry, fighting in the jungles of New Guinea.
This veteran is a New Mexican through and through. Montoya graduated from Monticello High School in 1941.
After about nine months of deployment, Montoya came down with malaria and jungle rot.
That’s when he started his life in Socorro and became a man of many hats.
He went on to build furniture that still stands today, along with beautiful handmade cowboy boots. It’s also where he met his wife, who he was married to for nearly 50 years before she passed away.
“Finally, I invited her to go and get a coke,” said Montoya.
He fondly remembers a snowstorm when he offered her a ride before they were dating.
“She said no, and then the snow was so bad and she turned around and told me ‘Yes! Take me!'” he said.
And the rest was history.
Now, Montoya is about to mark another milestone.
“I think one of the reasons that he’s lived so long is he keeps active,” said his son.
Montoya is about to turn 100 years old.
“Happy, happy birthday,” said a friend.
Saturday, his closest family and friends have gathered to help him celebrate at Sandia Baptist Church to honor their American hero.