Candido Marez was 10 years old in 1963 when he and two of his friends, during Sunday mass at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Pueblo, concocted a scheme to steal $5 from the church’s collection basket.
The trio’s plan worked. Marez, an altar boy at the time, took $5 and the boys went to a local store to buy sodas and candy.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” Marez said, “and we rarely had a soda.”
Once the boys finished their sweets, Marez went home but was surprised to see who was inside: Father Bosch, the parish priest of Sainte-Anne at the time.
Marez hid behind a fence for a few hours, not wanting to confront Bosch and his mother, Mary.
“(Father Bosch) knew we took the $5,” Marez said.
Marez came out of hiding and Mary took him back to Sainte-Anne so he could speak with Bosch.
“Rather than punish me, Father Bosch just said, ‘Listen, you’re going to come back and pay us back.’ So here I am, 50 years later.
Marez, 69, returned to Pueblo from Los Angeles this week and Sunday at Mass planned to donate $10,000 to St. Anne’s Catholic Church, fulfilling (and more) the promise of nearly 60 years ago.
On Thursday, Marez signed a check for $10,000 and donated it to the Lucero branch of the Pueblo City County Library District. He is also donating $5,000 to the Catholic Diocese’s Poor Clare Sisters Foundation.
“(Bosch) had enough faith in me to believe that I would come back one day,” Marez said. “It was a driving force throughout my life to succeed so I could keep that promise. So many people in Pueblo said I was a loser because I was fighting and everything. But Father Bosch told me given my first chance.
Marez attended Pueblo East High School and grew up in Eastwood Heights, known to locals as the “Dog Patch”. He played football at East after playing youth football in college.
John “Quail” Aragon, star athlete and football player, graduated from the East in 1965 alongside Councilman Larry Atencio, whose family was close to Aragon’s.
Aragon helped form the youth football team Marez played for, but also took on a mentoring role and took young players and students under his wing, including Marez.
“It’s the story of a kid who is influenced by someone else – a mentor – and goes away and wants to give back to the community,” Atencio said.
Marez graduated from East in 1972 and moved to Los Angeles in September 1973. He spent decades as an entrepreneur and businessman, buying and selling nearly a dozen businesses. Now retired, he wants to give back.
“I’ve always been a fighter, and it’s all about how we can impact the kids in our community, because I know if someone just believes in you, it will happen,” Marez said. “These kids deserve to see what the rest of the world looks like. It is a beautiful place.”
Marez said he wants to involve John Camera and the Knights of Columbus for future fundraising opportunities and to make annual financial contributions to Lucero Library and St. Anne’s Catholic Church.
“It had to happen because we’re here all these years later,” Marez said.
Chief Reporter Josue Perez can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @josuepwrites.