‘Little Graceland’ museum founder and Elvis Presley ‘army buddy’ dies at 81 in Texas

Simon Vega, center, and Elvis tribute artists at Little Graceland (Los Fresnos)

Little Graceland Museum (Los Fresnos)

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The founder and owner of a Rio Grande Valley, Texas roadside attraction honoring Elvis Presley died Friday. Simon Hinojosa Vega, 81, served in the U.S. Army with Presley. For one dollar admission he gave private tours of “Little Graceland,” his Los Fresnos home, for decades as a tribute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The tour was especially popular with Elvis fans and Winter Texans.

Vega, with the support of the City of Los Fresnos and the local Chamber of Commerce would hold an “Elvis Fest” each January and August annually at his home museum. Presley was born on January 8, 1935 and died August 16, 1977.

Mr. Vega was inducted into the Army on February 6, 1958 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Soon he was taking his four weeks of basic training at Fort Hood, outside of Killeen, Texas. The new Private Presley also arrived to Fort Hood from Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas.


“Elvis was nervous when he put his arms around me for the picture”

Vega’s wife, Teresa, was introduced to the young singer and they took a photograph together.

“Elvis was nervous when he put his arms around me for the picture,” she said.

Presley responded with a humble, “Gracias.”

Vega with Elvis statue (Los Fresnos)

During his tours at his Los Fresnos home, Vega would always point out the photo of Presley and his wife.

It was not until Presley and Vega were assigned to the same barracks in August 1958 at Freiburg Baden-Württemberg, Germany that they became friends.  On occasion the two would pull guard duty together for Company D Spearhead 3rd Army Division. While awaiting a meal, Vega reintroduced himself to Presley, and the two became “army buddies.”  Vega often told tourists that all Presley wanted was to heal from his mother, Gladys Presley death (in 1958, before Germany), and to receive equal treatment just any solider would get.

Considered a “local icon,” Vegas’s daughter Rosie told Brownsville Herald reporter Kaila Contreras she was uncertain about the future of Little Graceland. Her father, “really enjoyed (the museum). Somebody would come every day, and he would come out and do like a 20-minute speech, and walk around and explain everything. He was his own tour guide.”



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