Emma Salazar, matriarch of the prominent San Luis Valley family and mother of Colorado political figures Ken and John Salazar, died Tuesday morning.

Emma Salazar and her late husband,

Henry, raised eight children in the valley. All of them graduated from college.

The Los Rincones-area ranch where the family lived and worked didn't have electricity until 1981, and the Salazar children grew up reading and studying by the light of oil lamps.

The Salazar family has roots in the Southwestern United States dating to the era of New Spain in the 16th century.

Ken and John Salazar, prominent Democrats in the state, were elected to top offices in 2004 — Ken to the U.S. Senate and John to a congressional seat.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet issued a statement Tuesday on Emma Salazar's death.

"I was fortunate enough to visit with her on her beloved family ranch," Bennet said in the statement. "She was a patriot, a champion for education and a legend in her community."

She is preceded in death by Henry, who died at age 85.

Ken also served as the U.S. secretary of the interior.

John, after one congressional term, returned to Colorado from Washington to serve as the Colorado agricultural commissioner.

The family, devout Catholics, would pray together every Good Friday before walking to Holy Week services.


Emma Salazar was known for bestowing good luck blessings on Democratic political figures during their campaigns. In addition to her sons, she gave her blessings to Govs. John Hickenlooper and Bill Ritter and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

Emma remained on the ranch, living and working, late into her life.

"It's impossible to overstate the contributions she and her family have made to our state, and she will be dearly missed," Bennet said.

Kieran Nicholson: 303-954-1822

Update 2:16 p.m., Jan. 6, 2016: Headline updated to reflect Salazar's age at the time of her death.

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