Barr Memorial Chapel obituary – Rafael Mirelez Vela, 88, of Fort Madison

Rafael Mirelez Vela, 88 years, of Fort Madison, Iowa died at 4:15 pm Sunday, November 10, 2019 at the home of his daughter.  He was born December 25, 1930 at Progreso, Texas, the son of Jose  and Marcela Mirelez Vela.  On December 21, 1979, he married Amparo Prado at Fort Madison, Iowa. She preceded him in death January 21, 2012.


Rafael left school at an early age to help support his family working in the fields.  His strong work ethics helped move his way to Iowa, where he picked apples at Faeth’s Orchard and worked in the vineyards at Baxter’s Vineyard and Winery.  That is where he met a special lady named Amparo,  who he later married.

Rafael was a United States Army Veteran, serving in the Korean War.  He worked at Fruehauf for more then 20 years, retiring in 1996.  He was a member of the VFW, Luluc Club and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Holy Family Parish.  He enjoyed bowling, loved Mexican music and Texas sports, especially the Dallas Cowboys and was detail oriented with keeping his yard perfect and cars spotless.

He was survived by two sons: Johnny Vela, of Phoenix, Arizona, Guadalupe Vela, of Pharr, Texas; one daughter, Francine Gomez-Lee (Mark Lee), of Fort Madison, Iowa; seven grandkids: Mandy Vela, Steven George,  Caterina Vela, Juanita Vela, Marcela Vela, Adrian Gomez, Javier Gomez-Lee; two great grandchildren: Julian and Kiara; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and a “son”, Jeff Warner, Fort Madison, Iowa.  He was preceded in death by his parents, wife, one infant daughter, two sisters: Benita Latigo and Margarita Cantu and daughter in law, Leimomi Vela. 

A rosary will be recited at 3:30pm Friday, November 15, 2019 at the Barr Memorial Chapel, Fort Madison with visitation from 4:00 – 6:00 pm Friday evening.  Mass of Christian Burial will be begin at 10:30 am Saturday, November 16, 2019 at the Sacred Heart Church, Holy Family Parish, Fort Madison with Reverend Joseph Phung Celebrant.  Burial will be at Sacred Heart Cemetery, Fort Madison.  A memorial has been established, contributions may be made at the church or the Barr Memorial Chapel.  Barr Memorial Chapel is honored to serve the Vela family and an online guest book may be found at

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