Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Veluzat Patriarch Dead at 101

He rode with Francisco "Pancho" Villa. He was one of the first to board the U-boat that sank the Lusitania. He was a bodyguard to Aimee Semple MacPherson.

And on Sunday, with 101 years under his weathered cowboy belt, Paul T. Veluzat died at his home in Newhall.

Paul T. Veluzat | Click image for more

Veluzat "lived long enough to do a lot of things most of us haven't been able to do," said Santa Clarita Mayor Jo Anne Darcy. "I think he had a very interesting life. He always had spirit. He was proud of his ranch, his boys and his family."

"He left us an incredible legacy of our Western heritage and culture," added City Councilwoman Laurene Weste, a close family friend. "He had a great love of the land. ... He was a very special man and I am proud to have known him."

Veluzat had been hospitalized with pneumonia during the city's recent Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival — something he wouldn't normally have missed, since two of his sons own and operate Melody Ranch, the event's main venue.

Although he was released from the hospital, pneumonia turned into a bad case of bronchitis, said middle son Andre.

"He got through the whole winter without pneumonia," Andre Veluzat said. "But you never know when it's going to come on."

Rosa Chavez Veluzat, Paul T.'s wife of 14 years, said her husband had battled pneumonia before.

"Every time he would go to the hospital, come home, and then within three days he was back to himself again, going outdoors and doing things," Rosa said. This time, "the pneumonia was very bad. He was just too weak. Plus the doctors said there were problems with his kidneys."

Veluzat will be buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park. A visitation will be held 4-8 p.m. Wednesday, followed by services at noon Thursday — the day he would otherwise have celebrated his wedding anniversary.

Left behind are Rosa; sons Rene, Andre and Renaud; four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Andre attributed his father's longevity to his vitamin regimen.

"He was very faithful to his vitamins," Andre said. "He told his boys, 'Take your vitamins. Gotta take your vitamins.'"

Paul T. Veluzat was born Dec. 6, 1898, in Summershade, Ky., and worked his way to Texas where, at 19, he hitched up with the Texas Rangers.

He joined the military and was one of the first people to board the German submarine that sank the Lusitania — an event that precipitated the entry of the United States into World War I.

"He took the captain and the officers off that U-boat and towed it into Charleston, North Carolina," Andre said.

"Then he got back to riding horses," Andre said. "He met up with (Mexican revolutionary) Pancho Villa and rode with him for awhile. He rode back and forth to Mexico."

In the 1920s Veluzat made his way to Los Angeles, where he was a bodyguard for notable figures such as early evangelist Aimee Semple MacPherson and industrialist J. Paul Getty. He came to Newhall in about 1939, eventually buying a ranch in the Haskell Canyon area of Saugus in 1943, Andre said.

Veluzat purchased real estate "all over Los Angeles," Andre said.

"He owned racehorses on the side," he added. "Willie Shoemaker was one of his lead jockeys. He's done a little bit of everything."

But raising cattle — and three sons — consumed his efforts in the 1940s and '50s.

"At the big ranch (in Saugus) we raised cattle," Andre said. "Renaud and I, we'd brand 'em and cut 'em and turn 'em loose."

Cattle ranching gave way to filming after 1964, when the Owens Valley water pipeline bisected the property, Andre said.

Between Paul T. and his three sons, the family would own and operate several movie properties throughout the Santa Clarita Valley — Melody Ranch in Placerita Canyon, which they purchased from the late Gene Autry; the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch in Saugus; the Rene Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch in Saugus; and a movie vehicle yard in Newhall.

Some of the properties were at the root of a family dispute that boiled over last year, when a lawsuit was filed for control of certain Veluzat assets. But an out-of-court settlement was reached and all allegations were dropped in February.

Veluzat's widow, Rosa, said Monday that she hopes her husband's death will "bring his boys closer," saying she too wants to see them get along. "I know that where Paul is, he'll be so happy if he sees them together," Rosa said.

"He was my good friend, the best," she added.

"He's one of the greatest men I ever knew," said Andre. "He taught me a lot. He had a heart as big as the world. He was a good man, as honest as the day is long."

Andre, associate pastor at Village Church in Newhall, will officiate at his father's services on Thursday, along with pastor Robert Bloom.

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