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Fishing was in Abe Chavez Jr.’s blood for a lifetime

Abe Chavez, who established Abe’s Motel and Fly Shop in Navajo Dam in 1958, died at age 84 on April 21, 2019

The big dream began at a young age for Abe Chavez Jr.

The son of a pro boxer nicknamed “The Farmington Flash” chose a different path than one that led to the ring. He was too enthralled by fishing.

Each time Chavez’s father took him fishing in Colorado, he fell in love with it more and more.

“There was a drug store they used to stop by and it had a fishing tackle section,” Chavez’s son, Tim, said in reference to a story about his late father. “That’s when my dad got the dream. He thought someday it would be cool to own one.”

Determined, Chavez followed his dream. With the help and support of his wife and their family, Chavez made his dream come true in the form of Abe’s Fly Shop.

The fishing supply store, along with its restaurant and motel, has become an iconic destination over the past six decades at Navajo Dam.

Chavez saw his dream come true.

Chavez, who began battling Parkinson’s disease eight years ago, died on April 21. He was 84.

His children, Tim, Randy and Nadine, have seen on social media the outpouring of condolences and meaningful stories about the encounters with the friendly owner of the fly shop.

There will be more reminiscing on Saturday when the Chavez memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Bloomfield, 200 West Sycamore Avenue.

Abe’s Fly Shop began quite humbly.

In 1958, Chavez and his wife Patsy wanted to open a fishing shop at the Navajo Dam site. He borrowed $3,000 from his aunt to buy an old building and have it trucked up to the site from Albuquerque, about 200 miles to the south.

“They were broke as church mice and didn’t know anything about business,” said Tim Chavez, who now runs the day-to-day operations of Abe’s Motel and Fly Shop. “They worked really hard and the Lord blessed them.”

They opened the shop four years before Navajo Dam was completed. They struggled early on, but gradually business picked up.

Patsy became the first postmaster of the new post office there, and as such, that drew many of the dam’s workers to the post office and Abe’s Fly Shop.

“Abe and Patsy were workaholics; they were at work before sun up and there till after dark,” said Jay Walden, the manager of Abe’s Motel and Fly Shop. “Those people ran everywhere they went. … Abe was instrumental in making the San Juan River the destination it is today with the fly fishing community.”

Walden knew Chavez for the past 20 years and has worked at Abe’s Motel and Fly Shop for the past 11. Walden saw and admired the way Chavez interacted with everyone. He said the owner was outgoing and treated everyone, even the well-known and highly regarded fishermen, as neighbors.

There were times ESPN came by and Chavez happily engaged in interviews with their reporters, Walden said. Abe became affectionately known as the Dean of the San Juan.

Tim Chavez said his father taught his children and grandchildren about integrity and how to work. The way he made his dream come true inspired them.

At some point, they all worked at the shop.

Randy’s daughter, Sarah, runs the restaurant, named El Pescador (“The Fisherman”).

Tim’s son, Garrett, has been a huge help with modernizing the business, particularly with its website.

Tim said it was like a miracle that the business became successful. Patsy helped with any deficiencies. Abe didn’t realize until he much older that he was dyslexic.

Tim remembers a story about his father at age 9 running away from home because he was so angered that he could not perform well academically. Later, Tim said, Patsy saw a program on TV about dyslexia and realized that was what Abe had been dealing with.

“One time he was so frustrated with the school, he wadded up some newspaper and tried to the burn the school down,” Tim said.

“Luckily it didn’t catch fire.”