BY RYAN SEVERANCE | The Pueblo Chieftain | FEB. 19, 2020
On a cold, blustery February day, the pull of a string unveiled the renaming of a Bessemer street in honor of a prominent Pueblo couple who positively impacted the lives of many.
A ceremonial unveiling of the sign renaming Central Avenue to McCulley Avenue was held late Wednesday morning across from Zaragoza Hall. Dozens attended the event, including several city and county leaders.
A white tarp covered the newly named street sign while individuals gave remarks about the late Charles and Petra McCulley, who the sign is honoring, before a family member pulled a string attached to the tarp to reveal the sign with the name McCulley now on it to the crowd.
“We’re very honored. Very honored and very humbled. My parents worked very hard here in Pueblo and made Pueblo as their home — and as children here we have embraced it and we just are so honored to see that the city of Pueblo would honor our parents,” said Yanera McCulley-Sedillo, a daughter of Charles and Petra McCulley. “It’s just so unbelievable. I know that if my parents were here they would’ve said no, no, no, because that’s not what they were about. Everything they did was from behind the scenes and they did it from behind the scene and not for any recognition.”
Charles and Petra McCulley came to Pueblo in 1968, when they acquired the Jones Mortuary, which had exclusively served Pueblo’s African American and Hispanic communities since 1921, according to the city. The McCulleys changed the name of the funeral business to Angelus Chapel Mortuaries and became active in organizations throughout the city.
The McCulleys’ involvement over five decades included the Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, the Pueblo Human Resources Commission, Posada, YMCA and the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, as well as other organizations.
The request for the street name change was filed by the city’s Planning and Community Development Department and received strong support from residents. It was approved by the Pueblo City Council and Mayor Nick Gradisar.
Gradisar said Charles McCulley was one of the first people that contacted him when talks of Pueblo forming a strong mayoral form of government began, asking Gradisar to run.
He said Petra McCulley was a community leader who had a special place in her heart for those who were less privileged than others.
“Charles and Petra have passed their legacy on and it continues with their children and grandchildren,” Gradisar said Wednesday before the street sign was unveiled. “Charles and Petra would be very proud not only that we’re doing this today, but that their children and grandchildren have continued the business in the community and have continued their service in their community.”
Councilman Ray Aguilera, who represents the Bessemer area, also shared some words about Charles and Petra McCulley.
“They have been an important part of the Bessemer neighborhood for decades,” he said. “They buried a lot of people for free. They were generous and kind to a fault. Now anyone who passes along these streets can be reminded of the people it honors and they can perhaps think about how they too can contribute to their community for the betterment of all.”