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.
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!
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:
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 http://www.findagrave.com and http://www.billiongraves.com. 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.
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.