Local leaders and family members gather with a plaque to honor former postmaster Rudy Banuelos during the May 26 dedication ceremony at the King City Post Office. From left are: grandchildren John Gelles and Allison Gelles, King City Postmaster Ruben Rojas, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, son Bob Banuelos, Esther Peralez-Dieckmann of Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s office, daughter Leslie Banuelos Gelles, Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez and King City Mayor Mike LeBarre. (Contributed)

KING CITY — State and local leaders came together last month to dedicate the King City Post Office in honor of former postmaster and veteran Rudolph “Rudy” Banuelos.

A dedication ceremony was held May 26 outside the King City Post Office, with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez, King City Mayor Mike LeBarre, King City Postmaster Ruben Rojas and family members among the guests in attendance.

“It’s an honor to be here as we name this U.S. Post Office, a pillar of our community, with the name of another pillar of this community, and that’s Chief Rudy Banuelos,” said Congressman Panetta, who introduced legislation to recognize Banuelos last year. “Today, we remember Chief and we remark about his service, his dedication and of course his commitment to giving back to his country and to his community here in King City.”

Banuelos, who was born in 1927 to immigrant parents from Mexico, enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in World War II. After the war, he remained in the reserves for 40 years and was a recognized recruiter in King City.

“He encouraged and inspired others to play their part in our democracy,” Panetta said.

Former King City chief postmaster Rudy Banuelos in a campaign for using ZIP codes. (Contributed)

Banuelos also continued to play his part in the community by working for the U.S. Postal Service. He started as a letter carrier and then worked his way up to be named postmaster chief of King City, serving in that role for nine years.

“Throughout his career, Chief Banuelos made sure that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, prevented his postal carriers from swiftly completing their appointed rounds,” Panetta said.

As postmaster, Banuelos understood and upheld the Postal Service’s basic functions. He worked diligently to fulfill the difficult responsibilities of providing prompt, reliable and efficient postal services so that the community could “continue to be bound together through the personal, educational, literary and business correspondence of its people,” according to Panetta.

“Chief fulfilled his responsibilities not just to our country and our country’s postal service, he upheld his obligation to his family and to all families in this community — and he did it right here in this building,” Panetta said. “That is why it is so appropriate that the King City Post Office be named for Chief Rudy Banuelos.”

Banuelos died in November 2021, and is survived by his wife Joanne and three children.

“From our family, we’d love to share our deep heartfelt gratitude for such an honor,” said daughter Leslie Banuelos Gelles, who attended the ceremony with her brother, Bob Banuelos. “He passed away a year and a half ago, but I know he’s with us right now and he’d be floored, and I know Mom would be all over it for a story she’d write about and get in the paper.” She added, “Our family is very proud. We never heard Dad say a negative thing about what he does for a living. He loved it.”

A plaque honoring Rudy Banuelos has been installed at the King City Post Office building at 123 S. Third St. (Contributed)

In the 117th Congress, Panetta authored and passed legislation to rename the King City Post Office after Banuelos in his memory. The bill was co-sponsored by the entire California congressional delegation and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December.

“It’s a law that not only marks this building with his name, but also ensures that Chief’s legend of giving back — and his legacy of service — endures in this community, in this Valley, and most importantly for our democracy,” Panetta said.

A plaque stating, “This building is named in honor of Chief Rudy Banuelos,” has been installed at the Post Office building at 123 S. Third St.

“This building represents consistency, and to have it bear Rudy’s name is something special for all of us,” Lopez said. “It’s a true recognition of a life of dedication and service to a community that cares. … Rudy’s life didn’t just touch King City, it touched Greenfield, San Ardo, San Lucas — everyone knew him.”

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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