Monthly Archives: July 2016

He Once was Lost, but Now, He’s Found….

One thing I have discovered about myself during my family history hunting journey is that I am persistent. Give me some time. I will keep on looking. If you might be related to me, I will hunt you down and I will find you. *insert evil laugh here*

There are still a few people for whom I am looking. My latest “last chance” try was for Tio Jose. If you remember, we last left the eldest of the Escalante children divorced. He had been seen turned out of his siblings’ homes in Calexico in the early 1950s.

Tia Panchita had said my grandfather Albert had sand in his shoes which was why he always kept moving. But he always kept in touch with his family. Tio Jose must have had sand dunes in his shoes. He wandered around all the time. He must not have been good about staying in touch with those who loved him, as they turned on him.

Jose Maria Escalante

Jose Maria Escalante

I had interviewed his daughter-in-law on the phone. She had mentioned that Ester said Jose was blind when he died. Fascinating. What that told me was Ester KNEW when he died. She just never chose to talk about it. That generation should have worked for the CIA. They could keep crazy good secrets!

Not to be deterred, I kept on searching. Ancestry had a hint come up that suggested a Jose Escalante died in 1960. The birth date matched, but they said he had been born in Maine. Um, no. I’m on a budget here, so sending away for Death Certificates can get pricey if it’s not the one you want.

About a year later, I decided to risk it. I saw that California had cashed my check two weeks ago and I waited anxiously for the post office to deliver the certificate. It came today! (I know, I’m a goof. ) AND it’s him!

Jose Escalante's Death Certificate.

Jose Escalante’s Death Certificate.

Bless Tio Jose’s heart! Examining the document gives me all sorts of clues as to the end of his life. He had been a janitor in his later years. He died alone. He had been in the General Hospital of Riverside County. He died of Lobar Pneumonia. He lived at this little house before his death:,-117.363913,3a,75y,207.25h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m4!1sD5aBjIvJrvjM52tbsXFONw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xb6892fb7bdd0d345!6m1!1e1

He stated that he was still married – to Ester Arias Escalante. He died on Christmas Day, 1960. Could that be sadder? He was interred at the Palo Verde Cemetery in Blythe, CA, on January 3, 1961, per the very nice lady who answered the phone.

The reason I called the cemetery is that I searched on and They had pictures and listings for all those buried at Palo Verde, but no listing for Jose.

I gave their office a quick ring. The secretary graciously checked their records. Yes, he’s buried there. His grave is located in Section “M,” 99-8. (Just in case you get there first.) Because his headstone hasn’t been photographed yet, I wonder if he even has one.

Palo Verde Cemetery, Blythe, CA.

Palo Verde Cemetery, Blythe, CA.

Today I get to move Tio Jose to the “Found” column of my ledger. Now he gets to be on that list of those I get to visit at his resting place to appreciate him for being my great-uncle. I might even be his first visitor. He has a wonderful family that I’ve had the privilege to get to know. And for that alone, I am truly grateful.


Fernando Escalante – Part I

It must be difficult to the be the baby sometimes. Either they are doted over and spoiled rotten, or they are forgotten. I have not forgotten about the baby of the Escalante children. I’ve been so wrapped up in telling my grandfather Albert’s story, that I postponed  Fernando. But, I can’t do that! Therefore, he has been bumped to the top of the queue. As his life was pretty full, I thought I would give him several chapters.

Fernando Escalante - May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante – May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante was the last living child born to Leonardo and Rufina. They were living in Los Angeles in 1914. I would love to know what drew them to L.A. The who? what? why? Before they got to Orange County, they had Fernando. This birth certificate is SO very informative. Leonardo didn’t have a business here as he’d had in Ventura County. Rufina is “housewife-ing.” My heart skipped a bit when I read “Number of children born to this mother, including present birth: 12” and “Number of children of this mother now living: 9.” My poor darling Rufina lost 3 babies. BUT! They did get one more chance. Fernando was born and his daddy was 48! Surprise!

The family moved to Santa Ana and started their lives. Fernando didn’t get to know his daddy for very long though. Leonardo died June, 1915, when Fernando was only one. The whole family shifted their center to Calexico. There are several family members who visited the area. This was the first picture I could find for Fernando.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

I love the sweet border agents. They tried so hard to translate names. So Fernando was called Vernon. Once Rufina died in 1923, Fernando became a 9 year-old orphan. Fortunately, the family rallied to care for him.  I would imagine he lived for a while with several of his “already adult” siblings.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

I found this handsome devil’s photograph at the Pioneer Park Museum in Imperial, CA. While my grandfather Albert stopped his education at 16 years old, Fernando made it to graduation in 1934. The next time I find him is in 1937 at the Hotel De Anza.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Fernando was working as a Bellman. This isn’t a phone book. It was an area directory and it gave all sorts of good information. I confirmed that here (by cross-reference) in 1937 Fernando is living with Tia Panchita and Tio Alejandro.

It was in 1936 and 1937 that Fernando’s life started changing. He met his first wife, Elodia Cruz. Elodia’s story is shared with us by her daughter.

Elodia was born to Luz Rembao and Jose Cruz in Mexicali, Baja CA on June 25, 1919. In 1920, they lived for a short time in Hurley, Grant County, New Mexico. Elodia’s uncle and maternal grandmother, Senona lived next door. Soon, there were three Cruz children when Alberto was born right after this census was taken.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Tragedy struck the family early. Their father died Elodia was 3, and their mother died two years later. The Cruz siblings went to live with their maternal grandmother, Senona, back in Mexicali. 5 years later, Senona passed. They went to live with a maternal aunt. They were raised among 16 children.

Elodia met and fell for a handsome Fernando Escalante. They married on June 15, 1937, when he was 23 and she was 18.

Elodia and Fernando’s Wedding Day. Photo courtesy of G. Miller.

This lovely photograph is their wedding portrait. Left to Right: Leonila (? as she looks just like Elodia), unknown, Tia Panchita Escalante de Garcia, Elodia, Fernando, Tio Alejandro Garcia, unknown, unknown.

They had two children, a boy and a girl. I’m kind of quirky about not naming those family members who are alive. I’m happy to report that both are.

Her manifest with her baby boy. She's beaming!

Elodia’s manifest with her and Fernando’s first baby boy. She’s beaming!

This marriage did not last long however. Fernando and Elodia divorced in 1942. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1946. She recovered, moving to San Diego to live with Leonila. In 1955, she found new happiness. She met and married Wallace Gray of Macon, Georgia. Elodia’s son had been living with Fernando and his second wife (next chapter) and their daughter had been living with Tia Panchita. Both went to live with Elodia and Wallace in 1956. That same year, Elodia had another son. Their family was complete. The Gray’s were married for over 50 years.

She was a sales woman at Hartfield’s Department Store for 25 years. I wish I had been able to meet her. Her daughter wrote: “My mother was a selfless, wonderfully forgiving, and unpretentious woman. She didn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She was a very fun-loving woman. She loved to dance and go to parties. She was a devout Catholic, attending Mass faithfully and saying her rosary everyday.”

Elodia Cruz Gray died of breast cancer on July 28, 2006.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Tio Fernando’s story went on after his divorce from Elodia. There was the military, a new wife, bar keeping, hard work and more children. You’ll just have to wait for next time.

My thanks to Elodia’s daughter for sharing the stories and pictures. All my love.