Francisco Perrotin: 1866 – 1899

Francisco Perrotin
1866 – 1899

The first cases (of yellow fever) in Orizaba were all of persons living in a small radius, close around the railroad station. In the next epidemic they spread out a few hundred yards farther and took in another block of houses a little farther off from the railroad station as a center, and it may be that in course of time they will establish themselves permanently a little farther off from the railroad station. But at any rate that point, at Orizaba, is the highest point where I found the Stegomyia mosquito permanently breeding in the country of Mexico.   

 – Dr. L.O. Howard, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Entomology, reporting his findings on the initial outbreak of yellow fever in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, during 1899, Transactions of the Second International Sanitary Convention of the American Republics, The Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C., October 9 – 14, 1905.


My great-grandfather, Francisco Perrotín (seen here with his wife, Maria Amaro, their son, Francisco, and infant daughter, Catalina), was one of those “first cases.” A mechanic at the railroad station in Orizaba, in Veracruz state, Mexico, he was likely bitten by an infected Stegomyia fasciata mosquito as he worked on one of the engines there. He was pronounced dead at his home on San Cristóbal Street in Orizaba on Saturday, November 11, 1899, at 6:00 p.m., by Dr. Rafael Labardini, the Perrotin (and later Huesca) family physician. He was 32 years old.



A search for answers

The initial outbreak in Orizaba stunned scientists, as the offending species was not native to a city that rose 4,500 feet above sea level. Scientists and medical experts on the disease quickly descended on the area and traced the source of the disease to the mosquitoes breeding in the waste water from the Montezuma brewery, acr.oss the street from the railroad station in the port city of Veracruz. According to Dr. Narciso del Río, a top Mexican public health expert in 1903, mosquitoes were believed to have been transported inadvertently on the trains to Mexico City.  They were released when the cars were unloaded at Orizaba, accounting for the first wave of cases at and around that unfortunate station.

Yellow fever was the scourge of the late nineteenth century along the east coast of Mexico, the Caribbean, and several port cities in the United States and Central and South America. After a 3 – 6 day incubation period, victims suffered fever, headache, chills, jaundice and vomiting. Most people survived this first stage, while a fifth of those afflicted were doomed to die in misery, experiencing multiple organ failure, internal bleeding, delirium and coma. The vomit, which took on the consistency of coffee grounds (when it was in fact coagulated blood), gave the condition its Mexican name of El Vómito Negro – the Black Vomit. It might as well have been the plague for the terror it wrought in those days.


Although the modern-day world has seen a significant decrease in cases of yellow fever thanks to the wonders of vaccines, there still is no cure for it. Modern-day treatment for the disease includes offering the patient plenty of rest and fluids, blood transfusions for severe bleeding, and dialysis in the event of kidney failure.


From pot-maker to boiler-maker
If Francisco Perrotin’s demise was dramatic, so too, were his beginnings. We can trace the Perrotin family back to Melle, an ancient rural town in the region of Deux-Sevres in western France. It was rumored that his grandfather, Jacques Perrotin, had served with the Napoleonic Army. Francisco’s father, Charles Jacques François, however, had refused to perform his obligatory military service and instead left Melle for America with his brother Romain Paul. With enough money for only one ship’s passage, Romain Paul smuggled Charles Jacques François, who must have been the smaller of the brothers, in a mattress onto the “good ship” Louis XIV at Le Havre, France, arriving at New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 29, 1843. Safe from capture for draft evasion, the brothers shortened their names to François and Paul.


The sons of a long line of chaudronniers / poeliers, or oven and pot makers, François and Paul were hard-working, ambitious, and creative. The brothers arrived in America during the last stages of the Industrial Revolution.  They became entrepreneurs, building stoves and ovens and figuring out how to use their metal-working skills in new ways. They made enough money to travel to Cuba, where they stayed for a time, and returned briefly to France to settle the affairs of their newly-deceased father before returning to the United States.

In 1860, François married Catherine Grady, a young Irish seamstress who had sailed to America with her own sister some years earlier. The couple lived in Shreveport for a time before moving to New Orleans and later, according to family lore, to Niagara Falls before heading to Orizaba to make their mark on the flourishing railroad enterprise being promoted between Veracruz and Mexico City.

The Niagara Falls connection
And here is where the mystery of Francisco’s birth begins.

Family legend has it that my great-grandfather, Francisco Perrotin, was born in Niagara Falls, but no one can say for sure. We do know he was the fourth of at least five children.  Sisters Mary Clemence and Mary Catherine were born in 1860 and 1862, respectively, in Shreveport.  His sister, Maria Dolores, was born on 15 September 1866, in Orizaba, Mexico. A younger brother, Ricardo, was born around 1871 in Orizaba. If Francisco indeed was born in Niagara Falls, it could have been between 1865 and as late as March 1866, though the later he was born in this period, the more likely it would have been in Orizaba. Maria Dolores could have been born prematurely; hence, it would be possible that Francisco could be born in the same year as his sister and their mother become pregnant right afterwards. If he was born in Orizaba, it probably would have been after the first part of 1867.


Of the five vital records that mention Francisco, four place his birth sometime between 1 April 1865 and 31 May 1867. Only one, his death record, is way out of range. Maybe the informant, Porfirio Amaro (Francisco’s brother-in-law), had simply estimated his age.


1.  Marriage between Francisco Perrotin and Maria Amaro
     Date:  3 March 1889
     Age noted on record:    22
     Possible Birthdate Parameters:
     From March 4, 1867 and forward


2.  Birth Record of Francisco Perrotin, Jr (Francisco’s son)
     Date:   31 March 1890
     Age noted on record:   24 
     Possible Birthdate Parameters: 
     Between March 4 and 31, 1867


3.  Death Record of Francois Perrotin
     Date:  26 May 1891
     Age noted on record:   24
     Possible Birthdate Parameters:
     Between 27 May 1866 and 26 May 1867


4.  Birth Record of Catalina Perrotin
     Date:  31 May 1893
     Age noted on record:  26
     Possible Birthdate Parameters: 
     Between March 4 and 31, 1867

5.  Death Record of Ricardo Perrotin
Date:  31 March 1899
Age noted on record:  30
Possible Birthdate Parameters:
Between 1868 – 1869
6.  Death Record of Francisco Perrotin
     Date:  11 November 1899
     Age noted on record:  29
     Possible Birthdate Parameters: 
     Between 13 November 1869 and 12 November 1870


Looking at the death record for Francisco’s father, François, we might hope to finally solve the birth year/age discrepancies because Francisco, the informant, should be a credible source.  However, his ages vary so much that we may never know.  Without having a birth or baptism record, about all we can do is estimate his year of birth between 1868 and 1869. 

As for Niagara Falls, could another child have been born there – perhaps before Maria Dolores and Francisco? Perhaps it was a boy – also named after his father but more likely “Frank” or “Francois.” This would seem plausible. Part of the legend surrounding my great-grandfather was that he was named “Frank” Perrotin. Was there a Frank Perrotin who died young, say, before Francisco was born in 1867? This, too, would be reasonable, as there is a four year gap between the births of Mary Catherine in 1862 and Maria Dolores’ birth in 1866. It still makes sense to think that Catherine and Francois left Civil War Louisiana for a safer place to raise their family. Niagara Falls, by contrast, was home to a number of Frenchmen, refugees from the politics down south.


If they did stay there for a few years, they would been closer in proximity to Francois’ brother Paul and his own family (who lived in New Jersey at the time).  However, I think it became apparent at some point that Niagara Falls was not where Francois and Catherine wanted to spend the rest of their lives.


A new venture
Shortly after arriving in Orizaba, Catherine gave birth to María Dolores on September 15, 1866. Francisco followed a couple of years later.  Buoyed by the high tropical climate, where the air was pure and everything flourished, he grew into a strong young man who followed in his father’s footsteps as an railroad engine mechanic.  

Thanks to François’ keen instinct for opportunity, the family was financially comfortable and well-travelled.  María Dolores married a British train driver, Timothy Bennett, at a celebrated wedding at the Orizaba train station in 1885, and Francisco married María Amaro in 1889.  He was about 20 or 22; María was 18.  The couple welcomed their first-born son, Felix Francisco Benjamin (nicknamed “Pancho”), a year later. Four other children followed: Juan, Catalina (my grandmother, or Abuelita, who was named for her own Irish grandmother, Catherine), Hugo Ramiro, and Blanca Luz.


Francisco, María, and their young family lived in a house on the “with the letter ‘I’ on the second street of San Cristobal” in Orizaba. As María was also multilingual, they spoke Spanish, French, and English at home, so the children grew up speaking all three languages fluently and gliding easily from one to another, much as their parents had done before them.


François died of meningitis in 1891 at his home on the station property. A year later, Francisco and María’s infant son, Juan, died of the same disease while still in his infancy. Shortly afterward, María Dolores and Timothy left for England with their own two young children. María Dolores’ decision to embark on such a major change must have resulted from the grief of losing her father, coupled with the fear that the dreaded meningitis might affect her own babies. It is also probable that Timothy was ready to return home to his own family and origins.

Catherine, also grieving for her beloved François and missing her daughter, eventually decided to join her and her son-in-law in England. Though she hated to leave her son and grandchildren Pancho and Catalina, she told herself that Francisco was going to be all right with his young and growing family. Dolores, in a new land, needed her mother more.

Catherine left for England in 1895.  As she bade Francisco farewell, she may have wondered whether she would live long enough to see him and his family again.  Little did she know that she would outlive her son by a mere two years.

When Francisco died in 1899, Pancho was 9; Catalina was 6; Hugo was 4; and Blanca Luz (later called Blanca) was a month shy of her first birthday. Juan had died seven years before of meningitis.  María, Francisco’s wife, was pregnant with their sixth child.

That sixth child, Roberto, would be born sometime between January and February of 1900.  Of the six children, he would be the shortest-lived, succumbing to infantile cholera at the age of nine months the following November, while Catalina (pictured below, left) would live the longest, dying in 1998 at the age of 105.

Pancho became a machinist in the new family tradition. He married Matilde Carmona, and they had two daughters, Catalina and Celia. He died in Orizaba on 1926 of hypertropic cirrhosis, possibly caused by hemochromatosis, a hereditary condition.

My father, Gilbert Huesca, recalled that his Uncle Pancho had very Irish looks – a stocky build, red hair, and fair skin. He also remembered that his uncle owned a most unusual cast iron stove, atypical of the stoves in Orizaba at the time. Did Pancho build it? Or did his grandfather, Francois, the poelier?

Family bond interrupted
Hugo, like his father and grandfather, worked for the Mexican Railroad in the port city of Veracruz.  Afflicted with epilepsy, he became the family correspondent with his Aunt Dolores Bennett and his cousins overseas.  When his letters stopped suddenly that spring, coincidentally following a major earthquake in Mexico, the Bennett family erroneously assumed that he and all the rest of the Perrotin family in Mexico had been killed in the earthquake. In fact, Hugo had died of his disease in Veracruz on May 13, 1920.  He was 25 years old and unmarried.

Contact between the two branches of the family resumed a century later, when Don and Jennie Murray of Highnam, England, contacted me and began correspondence, in June 2006.

The Perrotin-Amaro women had wavy dark brown hair and lively brown eyes, and they possessed an inner strength that was as appealing as their beauty. Blanca Perrotin was about 5’6”, slender, regal, proud, strong-willed, and beautiful. As a young woman, she was the image of her grandmother, Catherine, and perhaps because of this, she felt extremely close to her all her life, though Catherine had left Orizaba three years before Blanca was born. She was married briefly, but when she found out that her husband had a temper and was known to sleep with a dagger strapped to his calf, she either separated from or divorced him immediately and resolved never to marry again. Life had not turned out the way she had hoped, but she devoted herself to her widowed mother and was kind and loving to her nieces and nephews. Her stern personality was quite a contrast to her sister Catalina, a happy person always surrounded by a loving husband and 11 doting children.
 
Still, Blanca (shown at right), Catalina, and their mother, Maria (Amaro) Perrotin, were very close. Aunt Blanca and her mother lived together all their lives, always next door or very near Catalina, first in Orizaba , Veracruz , and later in Mexico City. Aunt Blanca was the leading authority on the Perrotin family. When I was 9 years old, our family moved from Chicago to Mexico City. My great-aunt Blanca and my Abuelita (grandmother) Catalina showered my mother with love, perhaps because of their shared Irish heritage, and they spent hours poring over family pictures and sharing family stories. Although she did not need to work, Aunt Blanca was an industrious woman and worked with her nephews (my paternal uncles) in their embroidery businesses. She died in about 1980 or so, roughly at about 88 years of age.

 



María Amaro Perrotin, Francisco’s widow (shown above), lived to age 98. A beautiful and attractive woman, she would marry again, twice in fact, after Francisco’s death, to foreigners; both of whom died of natural causes. She ran a bakery or café in Orizaba, helped by her daughters.  It was there that Catalina met the young Cayetano Huesca, who she would soon marry.

Postscript:  Revenge

My husband and I have been sick since last week with nasty colds – it is very damp here in California right now – and we’ve spent a considerable amount of time resting and reading. Last Saturday, I read up on yellow fever (not the best topic to tackle when you’re sick, by the way) and learned a considerable amount about Stegomyia fasciata, the species of mosquito that became infected and went on to spread the disease throughout coastal Mexico and beyond. It must have really made an impression on me, because when I went to bed that night, I had vivid dreams about mosquitoes and yellow fever.


Sometime during the middle of the night, our eldest son tapped on our door to ask where the bug spray was. It seemed that there was what he called a “gi-normous bug” flying around outside our bedroom, on the upstairs landing. Our son tapped again on our door a few minutes later and said he couldn’t find the bug spray and was going to leave the bug there.


Now, normally one of us (not me, mind you) would have gotten up at that point to take care of the dreaded intruder, but my husband and I were too sick and too out of it to budge. Still, I knew what was out there and spent the rest of the night in restless sleep, terrified of being bitten by that horrible mosquito and getting West Nile Virus or some other blood-borne disease. Funny how one’s mind can take off like that! When I awoke in the morning, I rolled up a nearby magazine, gingerly opened the door, and held my breath as I looked about the landing. There it was, just above the bathroom door.


“Damn you!” I yelled at him as I swatted it violently. I startled myself with my own reaction and then realized I had killed it not just for myself but for Francisco and the family he left behind. Looking at its flat, lifeless form on the magazine, it seemed ironic to think that such a small insect could have inflicted so much misery.


I went back to bed and slept quite well.

Updated November 23, 2019.

Copyright (C) 2019  Linda Huesca Tully

 

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Patricia Ann Fay

 

 

 

 

Patricia Ann Fay

 

 

Born: 12 July 1923,
Stuart, Iowa 

Died: 16 January 1997,

San Jose, California 

Faith, family, and charity were the recurring themes of Patricia Tully’s life.

Born the youngest of eight children to Daniel Francis Fay and Sarah Ellen “Ella” Riney on July 12, 1927, in Stuart, Iowa, Mom – or “Pat,” as she was called by those who knew her – was a sweet little girl who adored her brothers and sisters and was loved in return for her cheery and fun-loving ways.

When she was two years old, Pat followed her older brother, Francis “Frannie,” into the fields to play. As Frannie tried to show her how to use a slingshot, he accidentally hit a beehive. With hundreds of angry bees swarming around them, the two panicked children fled. But Frannie, about 9 at that time, easily outran his baby sister, and little Pat arrived at the house with a multitude of bee stings. Her father, Daniel, picked her up and silently cradled the helpless toddler her in his arms. Years later, she remembered feeling safe and protected as he rocked her tiny, pain-wracked body throughout that long night. It would be her only memory of her father.

Daniel Francis Fay

 

Daniel Fay died a year later, in 1927, leaving Ella, a seamstress, to raise her eight children on her own during the Great Depression. Ella’s strength, love, and spirituality made her a role model and hero to Pat, who remembered her passionately throughout her own life.

Ella faced her challenges bravely and not without a sense of humor. About a year or so after their father’s death, she came home one sunny afternoon to find her four youngest children carefully carrying the household furniture outside. When she asked them why, little Pat piped up, “Because Frannie says we need a bigger house, Mother, so we’re gonna set fire to this one!” The others nodded excitedly in unison.

Scooping up her youngest child, Ella matter-of-factly informed the other children that the family would not be moving, instructed them to return the furniture to the house, and calmly went inside.

Ella and Pat were extremely close. Pat would climb into bed with her mother every night, where the two would snuggle together, Ella calling Pat her “little stove” because she kept her mother warm. In the morning, she would awaken her daughter by gently stroking her forehead. These moments of tenderness would carry Mom through her life and help her to become both loving toward and beloved by all whose lives she touched.

Pat was 12 years old when Ella was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Ambrose had died five years earlier of tuberculosis, and Joe and Frannie, now adults, had left home. The only treatment center being in Chicago, Ella moved her five daughters, Katherine “Kay,” Dorothy “Dot,” Monica “Mickey,” Adele “Del,” and Pat to a small apartment on Chicago’s South Side. Del and Pat entered St. Thomas Aquinas High School (coincidentally, my own mother, Joan Schiavon, would attend the same school a couple of years later).

When it became clear that the treatments were not working, Ella decided to return to Stuart to die. With little to her name, she made a special trip to a photography studio to have a portrait made of herself so she would have something to leave her children. Knowing she had little time left, she baked Pat a beautiful chocolate cake for her 13th birthday in mid-May of 1938, though Pat’s actual birthday would not be until that July. On May 22, barely a couple of weeks later, Ella Riney Fay died, surrounded by her children.

Sarah Ellen Riney

 

The only things Pat had of her mother’s were her parents’ wedding picture and her mother’s portrait. She treasured the pictures all her life and hung them near her bed, so that they were the first things she saw when she awoke in the morning.

 

After her mother’s death, Pat and her sister Mickey moved to California, living together in Oakland for about a year until Mickey joined the WACS during World War II. Mom was on her own from that time on. Adversity had made her resilient, outgoing, and adventurous, and she and a group of her girlfriends moved to Honolulu, Hawaii for a couple of years before returning to California, this time to Santa Monica, where held a number of jobs and even learned to fly a two-seater prop airplane. She used to say that God was always watching over her because she was never without work.

A lovely young woman with an easy laugh and a love of life, Pat met Welner “Bing” Tully, a young World War II Army veteran, when she moved into an apartment in the same building in which he lived. They found a strong and common bond in that they had both lost their parents at an early age and had been on their own for a long time. They were married in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 1, 1958, moving to a small cottage in Topanga Canyon. As time went on, they would live in London, England, Santa Monica, Santa Maria, and San Jose, California, eventually celebrating 39 years of wedded life.

Pat and Bing forged their marriage based on mutual support and devotion and gave their children, Charles and Kathleen, a life filled with love and laughter and encouragement.

The consummate mother, Pat took great pride in her children and used to say they had never given her a moment’s trouble. She never raised a hand to them but reared them instead with firmness, wisdom, and respect. Among her most prized possessions were their school pictures, a pencil holder that Charles had made her as a little boy, and a short story Kathleen had written in grade school. Once, when Charles was about 10 years old, he put a rubber rat on her Mixmaster electric mixer, probably thinking he would scare the daylights out of her. She thought it was so funny that she glued it right onto the base of the machine, where it remains to this day. She took great delight in baking birthday cakes for her family. No one could bake a German chocolate cake like Mom could. Your birthday was not complete without one of her famous cakes.

When Charles and Kathy were grown, Pat took on do-it-yourself home improvement projects. No sooner than Bing was in a limo on his way to the airport for a business trip, Pat would pull out her tools and begin painting, wallpapering, or sanding floors. Bing used to joke that when he returned home, he sometimes wondered if he had walked into the right house.

Left to right: Bing, Patricia, Charles, Kathleen, and Linda (Huesca) Tully, Christmas 1984

Although a sentimental person, she loved a good laugh and preferred an outrageously funny greeting card to a serious one. She entered easily into conversation with friends or strangers alike. She explored both sides of a problem and refused to judge anyone – “you never know what another person is going through,” she used to say. She was a good listener, compassionate, and empathetic. She was always ready to put her own thoughts aside to be present for anyone who needed her ear.

Pat was proud of her Irish heritage and kept a number of books on Irish history and culture by her chair in the living room. A favorite song of hers was “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and she loved to sing it to her grandchildren as she cuddled them in her rocking chair. The thought of her grandchildren’s names being very Irish delighted her, and she claimed that each of them had “the map of Ireland” on their faces and in their eyes.

Material things meant nothing to her. Her riches were her memories of her mother and of Charles and Kathy when they were little, and her almost daily visits by her grandchildren. She was proud of the closeness she and her sisters shared, though they lived thousands of miles apart. She loved visiting them and reminiscing about the old days when they were all together, of how their mother had loved them all so much and of all the hardships they had overcome together after her death.

 

Pat and her sisters (and spouses): Clay and Dorothy Tillisch, Monica Shipley, Adele and Leo Bianchi, and Patricia and Bing Tully. Omaha, Nebraska, September 24, 1989.


Her family having been poor, she wanted to help others in any way she could, and she knitted scarves, mittens, and between 90 – 100 caps a year for the clients of Martha’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen for the poor in San Jose. On cold winter nights, Brother Joseph Nuuanu, the director of the kitchen, and his staff would distribute the caps to their clients after meals, so that they “would leave the hall feeling full and warm.” He believed that, “thoughout the years, anyone who wore one of Pat’s caps was wearing her prayer; and everyone who wore those caps reflected a prayer (for her).”

She was never a “mother-in-law” in my eyes. She and my mother had been close, and when my mother was dying of cancer ten years ago, she asked Pat to be my mother in her absence. Pat was indeed my “mom.” Saturday evenings, long after everyone had left the dinner table, we bared our souls to each other and talked for hours, about the Church, family, childrearing, and moral values. If there was one subject we disagreed on, it had to be our after-dinner drink of choice: she loved her coffee, while I preferred tea. “How on earth can you drink that stuff?” she would tease me.

In her later years, Mom lived for her grandchildren, Michael, Kevin, and Erin. She and Dad babysat them every chance they got, and she delighted in their growth and accomplishments. She was ever the doting grandma. She cried when each of them started preschool and beamed when they brought her nosegays of flowers from the garden. Her “babies” could do no wrong in her eyes. To her, they were perfect in every way.

Mom owed her deep love for the Church to her own mother, a devout Catholic who brought her to daily Mass and passed on to her daughter her devotions to the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary.

Erin, Michael, and Kevin

A long-time parishioner of Queen of Apostles Church in San Jose, Pat helped out in the office, edited the parish newsletter, The Queen’s Herald, served on the parish council, and participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a program for new and not-so-new Catholics who wanted to better understand the Church. She had many friends at the church: lay, clergy, and religious, and she spoke of them often.

Until her health worsened during the last eight to ten months of her life, she had never missed a Sunday Mass. The one exception she made, possibly her last Mass, was the celebration of Michael’s First Communion on April 20, 1996. It was a highlight of her life to witness her eldest grandson receive the Body of Christ.

Although she had survived a surgery to repair six blockages in her arteries, the strain on her body began to take its toll, and the flow of oxygen to her brain diminished during the last year of her life. Her memory began to fade, but the things that mattered most to her all her life were the things she remembered up to the end. Her God, her precious mother, her family – these things never left her mind or her heart.

One sunny August day in 1996, she confided that she had forgotten how to knit. She was frustrated that she could no longer knit the caps she so loved to bring to Brother Joseph, but even this she tried to accept gracefullyand quietly.

She seemed to know that she would be leaving us soon, and she talked longingly and frequently of her mother. Her voice would trail off as she recalled stories about her mother, and sometimes she seemed to be in another world. She began to give little things to Erin, as if she no longer had any need for them. She talked of Charles and Kathy, of what good children they had been and how proud they had made her.

The evening of the day Mom died, we drove over to the house to be with Dad and Kathy. The children, at the time ranging in age from 8 to 4, understood that Grandma had died that morning, and they became excited as we entered the house. “Look!” they cried as they noticed some of her belongings. “Grandma left these behind!” I guess they thought that when you die, you take your things with you.

She left us behind, too, but thankfully, she left us with a lifetime full of memories – memories of a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother whose life gently, lovingly, and gracefully touched all those who knew and loved her.

 

Where the Flowers Is: How Dad Impacted the World

“Where the Flowers is…”

 

One of the great things about writing family history is that you get to write about whatever and whomever you want. One the of the hardest things about it, though, is that sometimes the things or people you want to write about are so close to you that it’s difficult to do. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it’s because you’re exposing a piece of your heart to the world. Is that such a bad thing? I seem to wrestle with this a lot. In the end, I think it is only right to share that which is special to us with others, so that they, too, may be enriched in some way. And so it is with my husband’s late parents, “Bing” and Pat Tully, both of whom were like a second set of parents to me.


How Dad Impacted the World

The following is taken from a remembrance I gave about Dad just after his death at age 85:

As we gather here today to remember Bing, I find myself also remembering his wife Pat, who died during a very stormy January ten years ago. Back then it seemed that the whole earth was missing her. Even the clouds were shedding tears.

But today, here we are, celebrating Bing and his birth unto new life, and it has been a sun-filled day and a bright, sun-filled week. And somehow that, too, seems right, doesn’t it?

Welner Clayton “Bing” Tully – I have to call him Dad from here on out, because he really was like a second father to me – well, he was like the sun: shining brightly, filling our lives with his sunny smile and warm sense of humor.

He loved this time of year and never failed to entertain us with one of his silly rhymes, remembered just for the occasion:

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz,
I wonder where
The flowers is?

He certainly would have loved all these flowers here today. But even more, he would have loved to see all of you. We’d like to think that he does see you – from Heaven, where he is finally reunited with Pat, his parents, his sister Vivian, and the rest of his family. They must be very happy.

So why are we sad? We miss him, his smile, his twinkling blue eyes, his gentle ways, his corny jokes. This simple man, humble to the end, who managed a faint smile and thanked his nurses for their help, just minutes before he took his last breath. We couldn’t get enough of him, and here we sit, wishing we had more time with him.

If he were here, he’d probably have this to say: Things could be worse.

I’m sure many of you have heard him say this throughout his life. No matter how bad the situation, he always found a way to look at the bright side of life. And whenever he said this – things could be worse – people just felt better. Yes, they’d agree, it could be worse, so maybe things weren’t so bad, after all. Hearing those words seemed to give people the strength and encouragement they needed to get through whatever challenges life had given them.

Dad’s life was not without its own challenges. He and his older sister, Vivian, went to live with their father’s sister Amelia (nee Tully) Bining when their parents became ill and unable to care for them. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and Amelia, who lived in a poor area of East Los Angeles, had children of her own and must have wondered how she would make ends meet with two new mouths to feed. But…”things could be worse.”

Amelia couldn’t say no to her family, and she raised Dad and Vivian as her own. She had little money but lots of live. Dad grew very close to her. He worked alongside her in her little grocery store, learning enough Spanish to help the customers, and he took on odd jobs to help the household. As soon as he was old enough, he moved out on his own so he would not be a burden on his aunt. He eventually the Army and was sent to India and Burma as a radio operator.

After the war, Dad returned to California and put down roots in Santa Monica, going to night school and earning a Bachelor’s degree in engineering. He dated his fair share of ladies but was smitten in particular by Patricia Fay, a dark-haired, independent and fun-loving young woman who lived in the apartment below his. Pat’s confidence belied her own struggles, having been orphaned just after her 15th birthday. I think they must have been good for one another and maybe together resolved not to let these tragedies get the worst of them but rather make the world a better place in spite of them.

Dad had a child-like sense of wonder, which endeared him to any kid who knew him. When Charles and Kathy were little, he was always helping them build things, or steady them on their bikes, or take them off to play tennis and grab a milkshake on the way home. All the kids in the neighborhood knew that Bing was fun on two feet, and many of them would knock on the door to ask if he could come out to play. He lay out on the grass with them, telling stories about the clouds, hung tire swings from trees, and built clubhouses out of boxes.

When our own kids were babies, he’d bundle them up in his navy blue terrycloth robe and quietly rock them to sleep. He and Michael used to take trips to Home Depot to buy supplies for projects, read astronomy books together, or camp out in the back yard.

Our own kids could not get enough of Grandpa. We recently learned that sometimes they would fake being sick from school, just so they could spend the day at his house. When a TV show called Pokemon was all the rage, Dad bought a Pokemon poster with pictures of the 100 or so characters on it. He framed it and hung it in his living room, and he memorized all the character names so he’d know who the kids were talking about.

There’s this little yellow Pokemon character, kind of a fur ball and cuddly, with with big eyes, called Pikachu. Kevin loved Pikachu. So one day, Dad found a paper cup at a garage sale, with a Pikachu on it. Every time we’d go to visit Dad, he’d get that cup out, fill it with something or other and give it to Kevin. Then he’d carefully rinse and dry the cup so Kevin could use it again next time. This went on for about a year, until the cup finally fell apart. I think Dad was more upset about it than Kevin.
The kids loved rummaging through the house, because Dad always had some kind of treasure there. Once, when Kevin was about 5 or 6, he found a book of matches and brought them out to Dad’s back yard to ask if he could light them. Dad said, yeah, fine, just do it in the dry grass so you won’t catch the good grass on fire.

Once, when I was at work and Dad was taking care of Erin, he fell asleep in his chair on the porch. Erin was just learning to tie her shoes, and she got this bright idea to tie the laces on Dad’s boots together. So she tied the laces over and over in tiny knots. Then she ran into the house to hide. Her giggling woke Dad up, and he called her to help him, but she thought she was in trouble, so she locked the front door and sat on the couch to watch cartoons. Dad worked his way over to the window. He started knocking and startled her so much that she fell off the couch. Neither of them could untie all the knots, so she had to get a pair of scissors and they cut the shoelaces to get the boots off of Dad’s feet. He wore Velcro after that experience.

Dad wasn’t beyond his own sense of mischief. Over the last year and a half, while he lived with us, he and Sugar, our Golden Retriever, became constant companions. Dad loved to feed Sugar, especially when he had no appetite but didn’t want anyone to know. In the morning he’d always have two slices of raisin toast, but on the days he couldn’t eat he’d wait until my back was turned and slip the toast to Sugar, who was only too happy to help. Once in a while I would catch them in the act, and Dad would give me that sheepish grin of his as if to say, “gotcha!”

Perhaps due to his Depression experience, Dad was a thrifty man, saving odds and ends for a rainy day or a chance to help someone else. I think I could safely say that they helped most of the people who knew him in one way or another. He never talked about it much, unless he wanted you to know where he’d been so no one would worry. But the little things he did meant a lot, and it gave him great joy to know he’d erased someone else’ burden a bit.

He once pulled over the side of the freeway near Santa Maria to help a stranded traveler. He drove the man to a restaurant, bought him lunch, and got him a motel room, then went back and worked on the man’s car so he could be back on his way the next morning. He did things like this various times, and when we’d find out, we’d worry that someone might take advantage of him, but they never did. It was as if he had an angel on his shoulder.

Another time, when he was living in his little house in the Rose Garden neighborhood, Dad saw a homeless man pushing a grocery cart down the street. He went out and gave the man some fruit, then invited the man to come back to the house once a week, so Dad could give him soda cans and bottles to recycle.

He retired early from his job so he could care for Mom when her health declined. It was a busy retirement, even after Mom died. Dad was never idle. With his engineer’s mind, he loved mechanical challenges and was always fixing cars or appliances for us or others. “Why call someone else when I can fix it better and for less?” he’d chide you gently. He got a kick out of mowing neighbors’ lawns and sweeping their gutters, or giving friends a ride to the grocery store.

His neighbors knew they always could count on him for a hand with anything. He never could say no to anyone and made time for all. To him, what is important in life is not how much you have but in how much you give to others. “My pleasure is double when they come to me in trouble,” he loved to say.

In the last year and a half, Dad’s health began to decline. His latest heart attack and kidney disease began taking their toll on his once strong body. He had difficulty caring for himself and began to lose his short term memory. He got in his car one chilly afternoon in February and disappeared for several hours.

Chuck combed the Rose Garden and beyond, hoping to find his Dd in one of his favorite haunts, but no luck. We got a call at about 6 o’clock that evening from a worker at the Taco Bell in Mountain View. Seems that after becoming lost on the freeway, Dad had pulled off the road and was in a daze. The Good Samaritan, who was on his lunch break, recognized something was wrong, took Dad to his house and fed him, then brought him back to work with him at Taco Bell while he tried to find Dad’s family.

Days later, we learned that Dad has driven all the way to the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, where the parking lot attendant helped him into the lobby for a cup of hot coffee while he checked the tires and fluids and sent him back on his way again. A fitting assist for a man who’d done much the same for another stranger many years ago.

Dad came to live with us after that. Though he came back from his many health setbacks like a cat with nine lives, he never really recovered fully and preferred lying on the couch, reading poetry, watching Judge Judy on TV, and discussing the day’s events. No longer could he do many of his favorite things, yet he never complained.


He was always grateful for the slightest thing and took pleasure in listening to his grandchildren tell him about their day. On good days, he’d quote Shakespeare or Kipling, who he loved. Once he read me a new poem, in his then-halting voice. It went like this:

True worth is in doing, not seeming –
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good – not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.

 

For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.

 

The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

 

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.

 

For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.
Nobility, by Alice Cary

When he finished reading, he studied the poet’s name closely, as if trying to memorize it. “Hmm…Alice Cary,” he said slowly. “Well she must have been a pretty nice gal.”

On really good days, Dad would mosey over to the window and marvel at the flowers. He loved the purple hibiscus and lavender roses out front, and he’d remind us that purple was his favorite color, though he’d add that he looked best in blue. He missed his friends but relished getting cards and calls from them and would read the cards over and over again.

In recent months, as his gaze became more distant, I used to ask him what he was thinking about. He’d smile slyly and reply with a wink, “I’m thinking about my wicked past.”

When he went to the hospital three weeks ago, he was exhausted and weak. It was hard to be cheerful, but he mustered a smile for us and the hospital staff, never one to give a hard time. After all, he managed to whisper, things could be worse.

I think that what brought him the most comfort in his final days was seeing Charles and Kathy and Michael and Kevin and Erin. His eyes lit up when they entered the room. It was clear just how proud he was of all of them. They and Mom (Pat) were the core of his life.

I have no doubt but that Dad’s memory will live on in our own lives. He would have liked most of this – knowing that we are remembering him here today. The one thing he might have scoffed at is the idea that we chose the poem we just read to remember him. The title is “Nobility.” Dad never would have thought of himself as “noble” but rather as someone just trying to live his life the only way he knew how. Still, I think it’s a fitting title for a poem about someone who put others first. Sorry about that, Dad, but remember…”things could be worse.”

Now I think I know “where the flowers is.” He was our sunshine, and we were his flowers.

Thanks, Dad. We love you.

– Linda

Copyright © 2008 Linda Huesca Tully

 

A Legacy Renewed, A Cause for Celebration

A legacy renewed, a cause for celebration
(Left to right) Back row: Michael and Charles Tully; front row, Linda Huesca Tully, Gilbert Huesca, Jennifer Murray, Erin Tully, and Don Murray. Missing: Kevin Tully


O
n a cold wintry morning on the eve of the Civil War some 150 years ago, a dashing red-headed French baker and a wide-eyed, dark-haired Irish seamstress pledged their undying devotion in a loving embrace before God as they were joined in marriage in a small Catholic church in Shreveport, Louisiana. The bond they shared made them feel strong and invincible, the same way it had made their parents and grandparents feel.

The world lay before Francois and Catherine Perrotin, and they knew could do anything together. They dreamed of the places they would go and the children they would have, and they resolved that this wonderful love they had for each other would flourish and keep their family strong and close and great.

Little did they know that over a century later, a handful of their sixth and seventh generation descendants would also embrace in the atrium of a California hotel, brought together by the same bond that had united Francois and Catherine and reuniting a family whose branches, separated by an ocean and scattered throughout three continents, had lost contact for over a century.

Our reunion with Don and Jennie Murray of Gloucestershire, England, was definitely a dream come true and just as magical as we had hoped. My father, Gilbert Huesca, my husband, Charles, two of our children, Michael and Erin (Our son Kevin had to work that day) and I met the Murrays at the Burlingame Embassy Suites for brunch on Sunday, February 26, 2007. A very kind reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, Scott Herhold, joined us to cover the historic occasion.

Unlike some first meetings in which you look at each other awkwardly and try to think of something intelligent to say, we never stopped talking from the moment we met. How else could it be? With so many family stories to share and mysteries to explore, we plunged into a conversation that lasted until well past nine o’clock that evening.

We spent the rest of the week visiting local Bay Area landmarks:  Mission Santa Clara, Big Basin State Park, Monterey, and Carmel. We also spent a fair bit of time at our home, studying family pictures, marveling at common characteristics, and figuring out who went where on our ever-growing family tree, which incidentally, took up three walls in our kitchen. And of course, we took a fair amount of pictures of our own.

By the time the Murrays returned home to England, it was hard to say goodbye. We felt we had always known each other, and maybe in a strange way, we had. It was as if Francois and Catherine, the links that had brought us together in the first place, had planned the whole thing.

Meeting Don and Jennie was just the beginning. We have stayed in close touch, sharing yesterday’s stories as we encounter them anew and laughing over today’s stories of our respective present-day families. Since our first contact, I have “met” seven other members of their extended family, living in Spain, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

The e-mails and phone calls keep coming and along with them come old family pictures, letters and always, more stories. I am continually amazed by the pride in and passion for this heritage of ours – a common thread, it seems, perhaps sewn into the fabric of our family by seamstress Catherine O’Grady Perrotin.

I had hoped to write about this sooner, but I must make a confession here. The Murrays’ visit struck such a personal chord with me, that it has been almost too personal to write about. These long-lost cousins, this newly-found family, have moved my heart so deeply with their love for and devotion to one another and their desire to keep our history alive for those to come.

And yet it is important to record this event, because it is all about a very special celebration. Not just my own, or my father’s, or my children’s, or Don and Jennie’s, but a celebration of our wider family – those who could not be there to join us but who share in this blessed family heritage.

It is about the reunion of a family whose branches each thought the others had perished tragically, only to discover them years later, alive and flourishing. It is about individuals who taught each other about their ancestors and in turn learned something valuable about themselves. It is about an appreciation of grandparents and great-grandparents and collateral relatives we never knew but whose quiet influence still reverberates in our own lives. It is about a celebration of the family.

To celebrate the family is to know that we are not alone. Whether near or far, whether we know it or not, another person shares a common facial expression, walks the same way, cries for the same reasons, drives a similar car, maybe even likes the same movies or gives their children the same names.

To celebrate the family is to understand who we are and how we got to be that way. It is true that each of us is unique, but we are who we are in great part thanks to – or in some cases, in spite of – someone else who was there first. Someone blazed a trail for us, consciously or not and whether we chose to follow it or not. Though they lived in a different time and place than we do today, their experiences and challenges may have been similar.

The experiences that touched our ancestor’s lives, from major events such as migrations, wars, and disasters to everyday occurrences such as courtships, Sunday dinners, misunderstandings, and vacations, to personal characteristics such as a particular skill or choice of a common trade or religious convictions, form us in mind and heart.

To celebrate the family is to honor those who have gone before us. We discover and learn from their struggles and triumphs, share their joys and cry over their sorrows. We rejoice in the present, daring to live with purpose and faith and passion, giving unabashedly of ourselves to our loved ones near and far. We look ahead to the future, keeping alive the traditions, stories and values that define us, in the hope that they will enrich the lives of those who are yet to come.

In doing all these things, we reinforce the foundation that was laid so long ago and pay tribute to a family that has taken risks, supported each other through good times and bad, and thrived through the generations.

Thank you, Francois and Catherine, for your legacy of love. It has endured and grown beyond your wildest dreams, and it is what binds us together and keeps us strong and close and great. And that is cause for celebration.

 

A Dream Come True

Perrotin Family Reunites for First Time in 112 Years

Tonight my family and I will bust a decades-old family myth when we meet for the first time members of a branch of the Perrotin family, who were supposedly killed by a bomb during the Second World War.

Their names are Don and Jennifer Murray, and they are very much alive.

They are making a special stopover in California on their way home to England from a vacation in New Zealand, and we will meet them for dinner tonight. The story of our reunion is almost as exciting as the life story of our ancestors in common, our great-great grandparents, Charles Jacques Francois Perrotin and his wife, Catherine O’Grady.

 

 

Charles Jacques Francois Perrotin and Catherine O’Grady, New York City, 1884

Since childhood, I had been told that my great-great grandfather, Charles Jacques Francois Perrotin, and my Irish great-great grandmother, Catherine O’Grady, left France in a hurry in about 1836. At that time, all young able-bodied French men were required to serve in the military after their 18th birthday. For whatever his reasons, Charles Jacques Francois decided he would not serve, and our generations-old family story went that he and Catherine decided to go to America. But there was a hitch: they couldn’t afford to buy two tickets, so they bought passage for Catherine and she smuggled Charles on board in a mattress.

Our family story continued that Charles (who became known as simply “Francois” after arriving in America), went to Niagara Falls and had a son, my great-grandfather, Francisco Perrotin. We were told that at some point the family moved to Veracruz State, on Mexico’s east coast, and settled in Orizaba.  It was there that young Francisco married María Amaro, and they had two sons and two daughters, one of then being my grandmother, Maria Angela Catalina Perrotin.

It was a romantic tale, one that everyone in our family knew and loved to tell. My grandmother and my great-aunt Blanca were especially proud to be Perrotins. We didn’t know much else about our beloved ancestors, just that there was something special about them.

As a teenager, I began asking a lot of questions about our family. When my family visited our relatives in Mexico City, I would sit at the table to listen and sometimes take notes as the adults told family stories. My great-aunt Blanca was usually delighted to have an audience and would pull out her boxes of family photographs and tell me about the people in them.

Blanca Perrotin, granddaughter of François
and Catherine, looks at our wedding pictures
with a young cousin.  Mexico City, 1984.


One afternoon my aunt – we called her Tía Blanca – took out a set of pictures from about the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th centuries. There were pictures of people sitting in a large room with potted palms on a tile floor. The women wore dark, long flowing skirts and had their hair done up in chignons. The men wore suits and stood proudly by. There were also photographs of some young boys in gray military style uniforms and caps. 

Tia Blanca said those were the Bennett boys, British cousins from our Perrotin branch of the family. Her eyes were quite lively as she talked about the Bennetts and their lovely home in England. This was exciting news, as I had no idea we had any British relatives. When I asked her for their address, she became quite upset and began to cry. They were all dead, she said. The Germans had dropped a bomb on their house during World War II. The entire family had perished in the blast.

Being young and impressionable, I was dumbstruck and devastated. You would have thought it had just happened. For years after that, I often wondered about these Bennett cousins, who they were, what their lives were like, and I would feel such a sadness that they had suffered such a terrible fate and that I would never know them. Sometimes I would dream that they were alive and that we went to their home in England. They were happy dreams.


As I researched our family, I continually hit a brick wall when it came to the Perrotins. I’d find information about most of the other branches of the family, but all I could find of the Perrotins was a ship’s passenger list with names that were at best questionable. You’d think that the Perrotin family had never existed.


And then one day in June 2006, some 34 years after I saw those haunting pictures of the Bennett cousins I thought I would never know, my dreams came true.

Don and Jennie Murray, of Gloucestershire, England, sent me an e-mail inquiry regarding a family tree I had posted on the Internet. They had recognized Francois Perrotin’s name and wondered if we might be related. It turned out that Jennie and I were third cousins, Francois and his wife, Catherine O’Grady, being the link between our families.

Jennie’s great-grandmother was Maria Dolores Perrotin, Francois and Catherine’s eldest child and the sister of my great-grandfather, Francisco. Maria Dolores and her brother, as it turns out, were born in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico. Maria Dolores married Timothy Bennett, a British train driver with the Mexican Railroad. The couple moved to England in 1892 and had eight children (six of whom survived into adulthood). The closest the Bennett family had ever come to a bomb, Jennie said, was when her father helped extinguish a fire caused by some incendiary bombs dropped in the forest near his home, though no homes were hit.

Maria Dolores (Perrotin) Bennett and her children at
the family home, Orizaba Villa, in Ruardean, Gloucestershire.

Jennie, too, had been told many family stories about her Perrotin ancestors, and a year ago she and her husband, Don, vacationed in France, where they found a treasure trove of birth, marriage, and death records for the Perrotins.

There was something else. Jennie’s family believed that my branch of the family had been killed, too, but not by a bomb. Apparently, letters to Maria Dolores from one of my great-uncles, Hugo Perrotin, stopped abruptly in the early 1900s, at about the same time there was a strong earthquake in Mexico, and the Bennetts concluded that all of the Perrotins had died in the earthquake!

Are they Bennett cousins?
My great-aunt thought so.


The brick wall quickly began to crumble as we began an e-mail correspondence that will culminate in our meeitng for the first time this evening, here in California.

Another photo from
Aunt Blanca’s scrapbook,
possibly a Bennett cousin.


We have so much to learn about each other, but for now, we know that we share many things.

We both come from strong oral family traditions. Lots of family stories (and as we know now, family myths, too), proudly and lovingly passed on from one generation to another. It turns out that Catherine is a common family name. Both our grandmothers were named after their own grandmother, Catherine O’Grady — Jennie’s grandmother being Catherine Bennett and my grandmother being Catalina Perrotin. The name has thrived through succeeding generations on both sides. There is a strong resemblance between both sides (dead and living) , even after all these years.

The greatest thing we have learned is that we share a common family spirit of love and reverence for those who have gone before us, as well as a passion for and devotion to our families and our descendants-to-be and a desire to leave some record of our rich heritage for them after we are gone. I believe that this love and devotion to family are what have led us to find one another, 112 years after our respective family branches were separated.

I pray that this love will continue to grow and keep us united, both now and in generations to come. And I also pray that this will be just as special a memory for our children as it will be, undoubtedly, for us.

And what of Francois and Catherine Perrotin? Much more, it turns out. I will cover them in a future post.

– Linda Huesca Tully

Alice Gaffney (McGinnis) Schiavon

 

Alice Gaffney (McGinnis) Schiavon

Born June 14, 1895, in Conneaut, Ohio
Died January 1, 1963, in Chicago, Illinois

My beloved grandmother, Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon, was a bit of a rebel.

 

Charming, but a rebel nonetheless. As a child, she did not want to go to school. She would line up in the morning with her classmates at St. Mary’s School and wait for them to process into class, and then she would walk in the opposite direction toward a nearby field, where she would play with her dolls, returning home at the end of the school day.

This continued on and off for several years. When she was about 12, Alice visited cousins in Cleveland, Ohio, for a couple of months. When her aunt asked her what grade she was in, Alice realized that she was not sure. She would say years later that “the jig was up.” She decided to attend eighth grade with her cousin and surprised herself when she proved to be a good student. She returned to her home in Conneaut, Ohio, and successfully completed the year at St.Mary’s. The picture below shows her with her class at St. Mary’s High School, bottom row, far right.

Alice was the youngest of four children born to Thomas “Tom” Eugene and Mary Jane “Janie” (Gaffney) McGinnis. Tom was a New York City native who ran away to sea following the deaths of his own parents. After years of traveling the world as a sailor, he returned to the United States and went to work on the Nickel Plate Railroad in Conneaut, Ohio, where he met and married Janie. Tom, Janie, and their children, Benita, John, Eugene, and Alice lived at 78 Mill Street in Conneaut.

Alice Gaffney was born on Flag Day, June 14, 1895, in Conneaut and was baptized at St. Mary’s Church. She was a sweet and beautiful little girl with soft blue eyes, long bright red hair, and a merry, freckled face. She had a playful imagination and was a free spirit like her adventurer father. Much to her dismay, her fair Irish looks earned her the name of “Carrot Top,” and she spent many an hour hiding in a fire lookout tower with her brother Gene, playing with her dolls until the other children went home.

Around the turn of the century, the McGinnis family moved from Conneaut to Chicago, Illinois, where they lived in a house on Drexel Avenue. Alice met her future husband, Ralph Schiavon, while he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago. They began a long-distance courtship through the mail, and in one letter Ralph shared with Alice his dream of one day owning his own general store so that they would have enough money to get married and have a family.

 

There was one obstacle, though. Because of the anti-Italian sentiment at the time, the U. S. Navy had Americanized Ralph’s last name from the original Schiavone to Schiavon. The new spelling sounded French to most people who heard it, and Alice was no exception. It was with a heavy heart that, though now an American citizen, Ralph had to confess his true country of origin to Alice before he could propose to her.


He needn’t have worried. After all, Alice, being of Irish descent, certainly already had experienced her share of anti-Irish prejudice. She eagerly wrote back that it didn’t matter where he was from. She loved Ralph and would marry him gladly. The couple were married on June 21, 1923, at St. Joachim’s Church in Chicago. Here they are on their wedding day.


Ralph and Alice had two children, Tom and Joan (my mother). They lived on St. Lawrence Avenue, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, not far from the McGinnis home. Ralph never did open the little neighborhood store he dreamed of but instead became a tax counselor in private practice. Alice, never one to follow tradition, instead preferred to set her own rules. Unlike most women of her day who stayed home and were model cooks and homemakers, my grandmother disliked housework and cooking and instead loved embroidering, crafting things, collecting stamps and dolls and involving herself in volunteer activities. She used to teach me how to work with yarn, pipecleaners, and beads. Her knack for making the most wonderful things from virtually nothing made her the most magical person in my eyes. She had a special drawer in her kitchen in which she kept small toys that she would give her grandchildren when they would come to visit.She valued her stamps highly. One day she was heading home with some newly acquired stamps in her purse when she was mugged by a would-be robber who knocked her to the ground and grabbed her purse. Determined she would not lose her precious stamps, Alice grabbed the thug’s ankle and sank her teeth into it, holding on tightly. The man screamed, dropped the purse and ran, practically falling into the arms of a policeman who had heard the commotion. The story made the Chicago papers, which praised Alice for her spunk.

 

Diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes in about 1936, my grandmother, who we called Nana, was told by the doctors that she would probably live another two years. She was determined not to succumb to their prediction but instead became even more active, and she parlayed her childhood love of dolls into a passionate hobby, collecting over 500 antique dolls and becoming a national authority on doll collecting. She founded the Alice Schiavon Antique Doll Club and also published Chatter, a magazine about hobbies and doll collecting. Alice’s determination paid off, and she would go on to live for another 37 years, outliving her own doctors.


She loved beautiful things, and she was well-known for her exquisite taste in fine European antiques. Despite her dislike of cooking, she knew how to set an elegant yet gracious table, and she decorated her home with brocades, lace, silver, porcelain, and objets d’art. With my grandfather’s encouragement, she and my mother opened an antique gallery on Chicago’s South Side and traveled to Europe in search of antiques to fill it. (Here she is with my mother, Joan Schiavon, on September 2, 1950, on the Rhone Glacier). My mother used to joke that my grandmother was her own best customer.

She also had a passion for driving and was pulled over more than a few times for speeding. On one occasion, she rolled down her window and regarded the young officer with her motherly eyes, smiling sweetly, as he told her that he had tried to pull her over but she had kept right on going. “Well, Officer,” she said, “how could that be? Why, with those handsome eyes of yours, I would have stopped on a dime!” He laughed and let her go on her way.

Another time, she was stopped for making an illegal left turn. “The sign says ‘No Left Turn,’ Ma’am,” the officer said to her. “You can’t turn there.” Nana smiled triumphantly. “Well, sir, I did, didn’t I?”

When I was about four years old, my parents moved our family to a two-flat brick house in Chicago, owned by my grandparents. One day I went upstairs to visit my grandparents and learned that Nana was awaiting her hairdresser, who came to the house regularly to wash and set her hair, as Nana was now blind and couldn’t get out of the house easily any more. I must have been about 4 years old. I told her that I would be happy to do her hair for her. Well, she was so thrilled that she called her hairdresser immediately and cancelled her appointment, explaining that her granddaughter would take over that day. We were in my grandfather’s darkly paneled den. My grandmother put the phone down and felt for my hand. “Go ahead, dear,” she directed.

I went to work, lathering up her hair and loving the sudsy sound it made when it was wet. “Oh, this feels wonderful!” Nana said, touching her hair. “It’s so soft. I don’t think I’ll ever need to call anyone else to wash my hair again. I’ll just have you do it all the time.” I stood a little taller and proudly continued lathering.

“By the way, what kind of shampoo are you using?” Nana asked. “Spit,” I answered matter-of-factly. “What was that, again?” Nana asked, trying to hear my little voice. “Spit,” I repeated, a little louder. Silence. “I had to get your hair wet, so I’m spitting into it, Nana!” I said matter-of-factly.

 

Nana laughed and called my mother upstairs. Needless to say, she never broke another hairdresser appointment again.

 

Another time, when I was about six years old, she called me over one day to show me one of my grandfather’s beautiful red roses. “Look at this rose,Linda,” she said. “Do you see the parade?” I looked at the rose but saw nothing. “Where’s the parade, Nana?” I asked trustingly. “Use your imagination,” she continued. “Look at the rose again, and look with your heart. Do you see the tiny bugs inside? Do you see the ants marching? Listen to the music!”


I summoned up my child-like imagination, looked into the rose again, and this time I saw the parade: funny little bugs in uniform, marching about, waving their batons up and down, playing snappy music, cheered on by a miniature crowd. Since then, I have never been able to look at rose without seeing a parade of joy inside it, thanks to Nana.
Her favorite song was the Irish “Danny Boy,” and her favorite flower was the Bird of Paradise.
Alice Gaffney McGinnis Schiavon died shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day, 1963. She left her beloved husband Ralph, her two children, eight grandchildren, and a legion of admirers with a lifetime of memories of a lady who found great joy in life.

 
 Copyright ©  2006  Linda Huesca Tully
 

 

Maria Angela Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca

 My great-grandmother, María Amaro, holds her infant daughter, Catalina Perrotin, on her baptismal day outside the Perrotin family home, flanked by my great-grandfather, Francisco, and their son, Francisco Junior.  Orizaba, Veracruz, 1893.

María Angela Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca

Born May 31, 1893, in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico
Died April 5, 1998, in Mexico City, D. F., Mexico

Catalina (Perrotin) and Cayetano Huesca, about 1913

My grandmother, Maria Angela Catalina Perrotin, was the second child born to Francisco Perrotin and Maria Amaro. Her birth certificate notes that her father, age 26, was from Orizaba and was a mechanic, presumably for Ferrocarriles Mexicanos, the Mexican Railway. Her mother, Maria, age 20, hailed from Tecamachalco, in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

Catalina was the second of six brothers and sisters. She is in the top picture, dated September 28, 1893, with her parents and brother Francisco. I would guess the family is outside their home, and their dress suggests that it may have been the occasion of the infant Catalina’s baptism.

Catalina, her brothers Francisco, Hugo, Roberto and Juan, and their sister, Blanca Luz, grew up speaking English and French in addition to their native Spanish. They often used their multilingual abilities to share secrets with one another, sometimes going back and forth between English and French when they wanted no one else to hear their conversations. This came in particularly handy when Catalina became a parent, as she could easily share confidences with her sister and mother without her children understanding them! Years later, however, when my family moved to Mexico City, my grandmother had forgotten how to speak English, but she still understood every word we said, sometimes even when we mischievous little girls thought she didn’t — much to our chagrin and to the delight of our parents!

In 1899, when Catalina was only six years old, her father, Francisco (also known as Frank) Perrotin died of Yellow Fever. The epidemic, known at the time as el vomito negro (the “Black Vomit”) Mexico, claimed over 600 lives in Veracruz state that year. To make ends meet, her mother, Maria, ran an eatery in Orizaba, and it was while helping her mother there that the young Catalina met the love of her life, Jose Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca (known to all simply as Cayetano Huesca). The couple married in 1908 and went on to have 11 children. Half of the children would have their father’s dark hair, while the other half were either blond or red-headed, with blue eyes, a reflection of their mother’s French-Irish background.

Feeding, housing and clothing a large family was a challenge in those days. In addition to Cayetano’s work as a mechanic for Ferrocarriles Mexicanos and his efforts to improve labor conditions for railroad workers, he and Catalina bought and operated a hotel, casino, and skating rink in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. Each of the children helped in the business. My father’s job was to make the beds every morning before he went to school. The others did the dishes and the laundry, swept and mopped floors, and transported guests’ baggage from the Tierra Blanca train station to the hotel.

Cayetano Huesca died of pneumonia in 1937. Catalina, at 44 years old, had given birth about eight months earlier to her youngest child and still had a large family to support, though some of the older children were already grown and had left home. Still, she inherited the strength so inherent in the women of her family and moved forward, never complaining, but taking the challenge in stride. She took great pride in her children, who adored her in return and continued to honor her for the rest of her life.

On the heels of Cayetano’s death, the Huesca family moved to Mexico City, as did her Catalina’s mother, Maria (Amaro) Perrotin and sister, Blanca Luz Perrotin. As her children grew and began families of their own, she stayed involved with them, She held court on Sundays, birthdays and holidays in her little house on Carpio Street, in Colonia Santa María la Ribera, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City, where her children and over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren would come to visit. She knew everyone’s name and age and never forgot a birthday, and she made each person who visited her feel as though he or she were her favorite.

Her typical morning routine consisted of sweeping her tile floors with a broom made of long straw, wrapped tightly around a stick. First thing in the morning, she would throw open the metal doors to her inside patio and put out the cages with her beloved yellow and orange canaries, where they would sing the sweetest songs and soak in the sunshine as she went about her work. Every morning she went to the market and bought the day’s groceries. Her mother, Maria (Amaro) Perrotin, and sister Blanca Perrotin, often joined her at around two o’clock for the customary Mexican comida, or dinner.

It was the big meal of the day, and businesses and schools would typically close at 1:00 or so in the afternoon so employees and students alike could go home and eat with their families. People would then return to work from 5 to 9 p.m., after which they would come home for a nightcap, or cena, which consisted of Mexican sweet rolls, or pan dulce, which all families bought nightly at the corner bakery.

The comida at Catalina’s house usually consisted of several elaborately made courses: appetizers, sopa de fideos (chicken noodle soup), rice, frijoles (beans), chiles rellenos (stuffed green peppers), tacos or enchiladas or beef steak, coffee, and often slices of fresh mango or papaya for dessert. Catalina was an excellent cook, and in her tiny kitchen she could cook just as easily for one as she could for 50. She did this often, too, for the steady stream of children and grandchildren who visited her just to chat or to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.

My Abuelita (an endearing term for “Grandmother” in Spanish) Catalina was a devout Roman Catholic and had a strong devotion to St. Martin de Porres. She kept a worn framed picture of him on the back of her pale green front door, along with a prayer beneath it and a small shelf on the wall next to it that held votive candles and pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe. She displayed the same pictures in her bedroom, and every night before bed, she would go around the room and light votive candles under these images and pictures of Cayetano and every member of her family, living or dead, praying for each person. This took about 45 minutes, but it was very moving to watch.

My precious Abuelita loved her family deeply and had an incredible memory for names, dates, and even voices. Even when she was well over 100 years old, she would recognize my voice when I called her on the telephone from over 2000 miles away in California. She always asked right away about my husband and our children. She did this with everyone and never confused any names as far as I know, and she had a knack for making everyone feel as if he or she was her favorite and she had just known they would call.

Like the women who came before her, she was strong, active and independent all her life. When she was in her late 90’s, she moved from her home on Carpio Street to an apartment a few miles away next door to one of her daughters, where she continued to live alone until her death at age 105. Her spirituality, independence, strong work ethic, and fierce devotion to family live on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, each of whom was special to her and who adored her in return.

She will always live on in my heart.


Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

 

Marriage Certificate of Cayetano Huesca and Maria Angela Catalina Perrotin

Marriage Certificate of Cayetano Huesca and Catalina Perrotin

My grandparents (Abuelitos, as we called them), José Gilberto Cayetano Huesca and María Angela Catalina Perrotin were married in the Catholic church in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz state, Mexico, in 1908.  Their first child, Enrique, was born a year later.

They were married civilly in the same town in 1912, in accord with federal law, which to this day recognizes the civil act (only) as legal. At the time of the civil ceremony, Cayetano and Catalina, as she was called by all, were already the parents of sons Enrique and Eduardo, the first of 17 children (six of whom died either in childbirth or at an early age).

Cayetano and Catalina, as they were known, were married for 29 years when Cayetano died prematurely of pneumonia at age 49 on September 11, 1937, in Mexico City.  He remained the light of Catalina’s life until her own death at age 104 on April 5, 1998.  Her devotion to him was evident in the stories she lovingly told of him and in the prominent places his pictures occupied in her home.

One of these places was in Abuelita’s bedroom, where a large portrait of my grandfather hung on the wall above a shelf filled with flowers and votive candles.  Every night before she went to bed, she would stand reverently before it, lighting a candle and praying for her beloved husband.

What follows is a translation of my grandparent’s wedding record.  Unfortunately, due to the age and condition of the nearly century-old document, some of the words are no longer legible; however, it is thorough in its detail and typical of the documents of the day.  I have capitalized and transcribed words in English as they were written in the original Spanish.  Note that my grandmother’s family name was written as “Perroten,” although it was actually “Perrotin.”

                                                    * * *

For Certificates of the Acts of the Civil Registry of the State of Veracruz

In the name of the Republic of Mexico, and as Judge of the Civil Registry of this place, I make known to those present, and I certify as true that on record 3 in Book number 3, corresponding to the year 1912, in this Auxiliary office is found the following information:

Number 3 – Matrimony of Cayetano M. Huesca and Catalina Perroten.  In the Congregation of Tierra Blanca at 8 eight o’clock in the evening of the 21 twenty-first day of February 1912, one-thousand nine hundred and twelve, before me, José C. Peña, Deputy of Justice with the title of Auxiliary Judge of Civil Matters of this Congregation, appeared with the object of celebrating their marriage, the citizen Cayetano M. Huesca and Mrs. Catalina Perroten, the former originally from Cañada de Morelos  of Puebla, single, mechanic, 24 twenty-four years of age and from this vicinity, legitimate son of Mr. Enrique Huesca and the late Luz Merlo [next line illegible, though it probably refers to Enrique Huesca]…years of age, carpenter residing in Cañada de Morelos.  Mrs. Catalina Perroten said to be a native of Orizaba, single, 18 eighteen years of age, residing in this Congregation, legitimate daughter of the late Francisco Perroten and of Mrs. María Amaro, originally of Orizaba, widow age 40 forty years, residing in this jurisdiction.

Both parties declared: that having verified their matrimonial presentation on the 21 twenty-first of last January, that having published this by legal means, no one having intervened; that the mother of the intended woman has granted her consent and said lady has approved the act, they ask the undersigned Judge to authorize their concerted union.

By virtue of having fulfilled all the requirements as prescribed by law, the parties were questioned in accord with the provisions of article 123 one hundred and twenty-three of the Civil Code, as to their willingness to be united in marriage and having answered affirmatively, the undersigned Judge declared them united in legitimate matrimony in the name of society and with regard to the expressed Code, reminding them of their obligations as to Article 55 fifty-five of the ruling law of the State Civil Registry.

Witnesses to this act were citizens José Arellano, Enrique Perez, José Luna and Rafael Bernal, the first originally from Toluca, State of Mexico, single, carpenter, age 38 thirty-eight years of age, the second originally from Chacaltianguis [sp.?]…[illegible]…State of Veracruz. [Illegible]…of age, the third originally from Texcoco, State of Mexico, single, carpenter, age 36 thirty-six years of age, and all from this vicinity with known addresses. This act having been read to them and in accord with it, this information [illegible]…to the mother of the intended woman…[in effect]…she and the witness José Arellano.

I attest – José C. Peña – Cayetano M. Huesca – Catalina Perroten – José Arellano – Enrique Perez – José Luna – Rafael Bernal [illegible]…present of the Congregation of Tierra Blanca, on the 27 twenty-seventh day of the month of February 1912 one thousand nine hundred and twelve.

[signed] José C. Peña

José Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca

José Gil Alberto Cayetano HUESCA

Born September 1, 1888, in Cañada Morelos, Puebla (State), Mexico
Died September 11, 1937, in Mexico City, Mexico

My grandfather, José Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca, known to all as “Cayetano.”

My grandfather, known to all as simply “Cayetano” HUESCA, had the cleanest windows in Orizaba, Veracruz.  That was because when any of his 11 children got into an argument, he would hand them newspapers and instruct them to wash the windows of the family’s hotel.  With one child working from the inside and the other on the outside, forced to look at each other through those windows, it did not take long before they burst into laughter, forgot their differences, and learned to work together.

This love for his family, sense of fairness, and strong work ethic permeated Cayetano’s life.  I never met my grandfather but have felt close to him all my life, in part because of my own father’s deep reverence and esteem for him. Cayetano, my abuelito (or grandfather), loved his family deeply and was an honest and hard worker who would have been proud of his children’s deep faith in God, strong family values, character, successes, closeness to and support of their mother and each other.

José Gil Alberto Cayetano Huesca was one of six children born to José Enrique Florentino Huesca and María de la Luz “Lucecita” Merlo, in Cañada Morelos, Puebla.  He learned to work with wood from his father, a master wood craftsman, and he showed an interest early on in mechanics.

What brought him to Veracruz, I do not know.  One day, however, needing a cup of coffee and a pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread), he walked into a small bakery-cafe in Orizaba, owned and operated by my great-grandmother, María (Amaro) Perrotin.  When he left, he had filled not only his stomach but also his heart, having fallen in love with María’s beautiful young daughter, María Angela Catalina Perrotin.  The two were married shortly afterward in 1908 and had the first of seventeen children in 1909.   11 of those children survived into adulthood.

A humble man, his actions spoke volumes about his life. He was first and foremost a devoted husband and father, a devout Catholic, a hard-working railroad man, a pioneer advocate for the organizing of unions and workers’ rights, and a successful businessman and entrepreneur. Perhaps due to his business acumen (he owned two hotels, a casino, a roller skating rink, and a restaurant), six of his eleven children ran their own successful businesses. My mother, who never met my Abuelito, or “Grandpa” in Spanish, felt a special kinship with him during her married life, prayerfully believing that he was in Heaven watching over the three babies she had lost. (Coincidentally, my mother died 50 years to the day after my Abuelito’s death.)

Cayetano Huesca worked for the local railroad in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, on Mexico’s east coast.  With the demise of the steam engine, there was a lessened need for railroad workers, and the railroad laid off many workers in 1919, Cayetano among them. Needing to feed his wife (known as Catalina) and their five children, he moved the family to Orizaba, Veracruz, where he worked for Ferrocarril Mexicano.  The family lived at 48 Calle Abasolo.

In 1923, Cayetano again was laid off.  My father, about 8 years old at the time, recalled helping his father count the silver pesos he earned as severance pay and watching his father cry as he wondered how he was going to support his family.

He moved the family again, this time back to Tierra Blanca.  Cayetano found railroad work once more, but now he understood the instability of the changing industry.  With the severance he received in Orizaba, he opened a new hotel and restaurant and called it El Buen Gusto (Good Taste).   All the family, even the children, worked together in the business.  Some washed dishes, while others swept and mopped floors.  My father made the beds before heading off the school.  (To this day, no one makes a bed as well as he did.) There were no allowances but a general satisfaction that all were contributing to the good of the family.

Cayetano Huesca, 6th from left, wearing dark hat. Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, between 1910 – 1920.

In 1925, with General Plutarco Elias Calles as President of Mexico and a struggle for labor rights beginning, Cayetano Huesca appeared as an actor in a union play, demonstrating the advances made by workers since 1900. Shortly thereafter, he joined other railroad workers in a strike for better conditions. They lost the strike and were fired. As he always did on such occasions, Cayetano went out of his way to feed the strikers, often without charge. Word of his actions spread throughout Orizaba and Tierra Blanca.

One warm morning, he was leaning against the front wall of his hotel, his beautiful young daughter, Victoria, at his side, when a small mob of strike-breakers made its way toward him. Wild-eyed and hungry for blood, the men brandished sticks, guns and knives, determined to make an example of Cayetano. If he was frightened, he did not show it. One of the men caught sight of the innocent Victoria and stopped the others. “Not now, not today,” he said. “She shouldn’t see this.” The men put their weapons down and walked away, never to return. My father used to say that all the younger children of the family owed their lives to their sister Victoria, without whom Cayetano would have surely been killed and they would not have been born.
 

Despite his bravery, Cayetano was a quiet, gentle man who believed his actions spoke louder than his words. He never had to raise his voice to his children; rather, they knew when they had done wrong just from the look of disappointment on his face. He adored his children and could not bear the thought of having them away from him, even for a night. When my father was about five or six years old, a voice teacher heard him sing and asked my grandfather for his permission to take my father to Vienna Austria, where he promised to train him as a classical singer. Cayetano turned down the offer without hesitation. A child’s place was with his parents.

In 1930, Cayetano and Catalina moved their family from Tierra Blanca to Loma Bonita, Oaxaca, where Cayetano leased land to grow pineapples and peppers.  They stayed in Oaxaca for three years, moving to Perote, Veracruz, in 1933.  There, Cayetano established the “Gran Hotel” – bigger than the “Buen Gusto.”

 

Like his father, he was an officer in the local Freemason chapter. He preferred obscurity to boastfulness and taught his children to “never let your right hand know what the left hand is doing” and that “whatever you do in this life will always come back to you.”

For all his humility, sometimes it seemed that everyone either knew him or knew of him.  When I was growing up, I remember that no one spoke of my abuelito without a hushed sense of reverence and awe.  Cayetano Huesca helped many people, among them a struggling young medical student, José Felipe Franco.  Cayetano saw potential in him to become a good doctor, and he welcomed him as one of his own family, feeding him for free and eventually helping him establish a small practice in Tierra Blanca.

Some forty or so years later, when my family was living in Mexico City for a time, my sister became quite ill and my anguished parents called a nearby clinic to request that a doctor come to the house to help her. A hunched, stout, man of about sixty years old, with salt-and-pepper hair arrived at our doorstep and was shown in. He examined my sister and exchanged pleasantries with my parents.

When he learned my father’s name, a look of amazement came across face. He excitedly asked if my father was related to Cayetano Huesca. “Then I cannot take your payment, sir,” he said, explaining that my grandfather had helped him years before. Thanks in part to Cayetano’s faith in him, he had gone on to become a successful doctor and a wealthy man, building a children’s clinic and hospital, “Clínica Dr. Franco,” located on Avenida San Cosme near Colonia San Rafael in Mexico City, where he cared for poor children and their families, often free of charge. He and my parents became close friends and stayed in touch until he died in the 1980s.

The family of Cayetano and Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca. Perote, Veracruz, mid-1937. Cayetano died later that year.


About six months after Cayetano and Catalina’s youngest child,
Edilberto, was born in Perote in 1937, Cayetano fell ill with pneumonia. The family decided it was time to move again, this time to Mexico City, where Cayetano entered the Sanatorio Espanol, or the Spanish Hospital. But the treatment of the day was futile, and he died on September 11, 1937. He was 50 years old. He is buried in Mexico City with his wife, Catalina, and three of their children, Enrique, Mario, and Victoria.

Many years after his father’s death, my own father visited a friend at the railroad workers’ union hall in Mexico City. Recognizing his name, the receptionist asked him if he was the son of Cayetano Huesca. When my astonished father answered in the affirmative, the excited clerk led my father to a large hall, where he found his father’s name engraved on a plaque honoring the work he had done to defend the union.

Cayetano Huesca’s legacy of devotion, fairness, loyalty and hard work live on today through his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren, who surely have honored his memory by living lives of integrity, generosity, and charity.

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Huesca: Origin of the Name

Huesca

Origin of the Name

It is believed that the Huesca family originated in Spain, in the province of the same name. Huesca lies in the northern Spanish region of Aragon. The city of Huesca is the provincial capital. The city goes back to pre-Roman times, when it was known as Bolskan, but the name was changed to “Osca” by a Roman general to honor its victorious efforts in battle.

The city became known as “Urbs Victrix Osca,” or Victorious City of Osca. The name took on the form “Wasqah” or “Waska” during the Arab domination of the region, and the city was fortified against the Christian counts and the kings in the Pyrennees. Peter I of Aragon conquered the city in 1096, after which the name took on its now Spanish version.

Although the earliest members I have found of the Huesca family have been in Mexico, I surmise that someone, perhaps of that Spanish city, must have come over with one of the early expeditions to New Spain, or Mexico, sometime between 1500 and 1700. There were quite a few persons with the Huesca surname during that time. I am, however, able to trace our Huesca family back to Mariano Pantaleón HUESCA of the city of Puebla, Mexico.

Huesca Family

From what I can tell, our Huescas came from the state of Puebla in Mexico.Jose Calletano de la Trinidad Huesca

Mariano Pantaleón HUESCA was probably born somewhere between 1765 and 1780, perhaps somewhere in Puebla? He married Ana Antonia Gertrudis CARPINTERO on November 18, 1801, at the Sagrario Metropolitano, in Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla (State), Mexico. They had at least one child, a son, Jose Calletano de la Trinidad HUESCA, who married Josefa Rodríguez, daughter of Felipe RODRIGUES (note the different spellings between father and daughter). I do not know who her mother was.

Jose Calletano de la Trinidad HUESCA and Josefa Rodríguez had at least four sons and two daughters: Jose Agustín de Jesús, José de la Luz Felipe, Clotilde Blandina de Jesús, María 

Beatriz Carolina, José Enrique Florentino, and José Antonio de Jesús.

1. José Agustín de Jesús HUESCA, who was christened on January 30, 1840, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, in Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

2. José de la Luz Felipe HUESCA, christened May 28, 1841, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

3. Clotilde Blandina de Jesús HUESCA, who was christened on June 4, 1843, at San Jose Church, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

4. María Beatriz Carolina HUESCA, christened on November 8, 1844, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico.

5. José Enrique Florentino HUESCA (shown here at left), was  christened on May 5, 1847, in the Sagrario Metropolitano, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico. Other accounts say he was born in 1850 in the state of Puebla, Mexico. He married María de la Luz “Lucecita” MERLO, who was born ca. 1865 and was the daughter of Juan MERLO and Teodora “Teodorita” Figueroa. The name “Luz” in Spanish means “Light.”

My father remembers that his grandfather used to say, “me levanto con Luz y me acuesto con Luz,” or “I get up with Light and I go to bed with Light.” I am told by my father that José Enrique was a craftsman who made beautiful cabinets and furnishings for many of the churches in the city of Puebla, as did his father before him. He died August 20, 1920, in Cañada Morelos, Puebla (state), Mexico.

The children of José Enrique Florentino HUESCA and María de la Luz MERLO were:

a. J. Gil Alberto Cayetano HUESCA , born September 1, 1888, in Cañada Morelos, Puebla (State)., Mexico, and died September 11, 1938, in Mexico City, D.F. Married María Angela Catalina PERROTIN on February 21, 1912, in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, Mexico. He was my grandfather and a very special person. More to come about him in my next post.

b. Enrique HUESCA – also a craftsman — made my grandmother’s wardrobe.

c. Jesús HUESCA – His wife’s first name was María. They lived in Jalapa, Veracruz. They had a son, Cayetano, who died in the mid-1920s. Maria died in about 1936. Jesús lived into about his 80s. In his later years, he lived with his nephew (my uncle), Enrique HUESCA and helped him in his linen embroidery business, Sábanas y Manteles Huesca, in downtown Mexico City. Uncle Jesús lived on the same floor as the business, which was on the fifth floor of 93 Venustiano Carranza Avenue in Mexico City. He dressed in khaki shirts and matching pants and sometimes wore a light beige cowboy hat. He was loving, quiet, humble and gentle. I remember always wanting to be around him when I was a young child.

d. Domitila HUESCA – She married Vicente CAMPOS and and lived in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. They had a son, Willivaldo, who committed suicide in the 1970s. Willivaldo had a daughter, Yolanda CAMPOS, who was very good to her grandmother and cared for her when Aunt Domitila grew too old to care for herself. Aunt Domitila was one of the family historians and wrote fascinating letters, many of which I still have. Her penmanship was of the old Spanish style, elegant and meticulous. She died in the late 1970s, possibly into her late 80s.

e. Rosario “Charito” HUESCA – Her husband’s last name was MONTORO, and they lived in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico.

f. Carlos HUESCA – had the following children:

* Elvira HUESCA – married Adolfo CAMPOS, a general during the Mexican Revolution (my father remembers he had a large handlebar moustache). They later moved to the United States and settled in Chicago. They had no children.
* Enrique HUESCA
* Amalia HUESCA

* Delfina HUESCA
* Charles Delfino HUESCA – married MARIE RIZZO in Chicago. They were very close and were excellent dancers. They had a son and later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Charles died of a heart attack while working in his back yard,  there in 1988.  Marie died ten years later, in 1998, also in Atlanta.

* Margot HUESCA – married and had a daughter

6. José Antonio de Jesus HUESCA – christened on June 14, 1849, in Santo Angel Analco Church, Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla, Mexico. He married Emilia BENITEZ, whom he called “Emilita.” Antonio, as he was called, and Emilia had two sons and a daughter, Gonzalo, Agustín, and Delfina.

a. Gonzalo HUESCA – was a lawyer, known as a “Licenciado” (a title given to lawyers). My father recalls meeting him in Veracruz in about 1933 or 1935. Gonzalo would have been 40 or 50 at the time.

b. Agustín HUESCA – was born in about 1881, in the town of Jalapa Enriquez, Veracruz (state), Mexico. He was an architect who married Dolores CORTES (daughter of Antonio ROCHA and Francisca CORTES BAZURTO, born September 30, 1885) in 1913, in Jalapa Enriquez, Veracruz, Mexico. They had two sons, Agustín and Enrique. Agustín Huesca died on February 11, 1964, at age 83.

c. Delfina HUESCA – was born Mach 4, 1888, in Jalapa, Veracruz; married an engineer, Lorenzo YANEZ.  Lorenzo’s great-great grand-daughter, Luciana Toledo, recalls that he was “an engineer of the road constructions in the state of Veracruz.  In the small town of Cardel, Veracruz, one of the main streets is named after him.” 

Lorenzo and Delfina had four children, a son, Lorenzo Alfonso, nicknamed “Pocho,”  born August 26, 1917; and three daughters, Clara Elena, born in about 1920; Delfina; Ana María.   My father, who was two years older than Alfonso, told me he was burned badly in the kitchen while he was very young.  A 1948 United States Border Crossing card, issued in Nogales, Arizona, notes that Alfonso was born in Hermosillo, Sonora. It identifies him as being 30 years old and married, with burn scars on his face and hands.  Employed as a federal employee for what may have been the national highway agency, he was traveling on business and pleasure. 

Postscript:  On April 15, 2015, I received an e-mail from “one more member of the Huesca tree,” Luciana Toledo. In her her e-mail, Luciana observes that I originally mis-identified her great-grandmother as María Elena and left out her father’s first name, and she graciously provided the correct information.  Luciana also proudly writes that her great-grandmother, the last surviving of the Yañez-Huesca siblings, is about to turn 95 years old and lives in Mexico City.  Felicidades, prima María Elena!  How I wish my father were alive to see this!  It is a thrill to hear from my “new” cousin, and I am grateful to Luciana for reaching out to share more about our beloved Huesca family.  Connecting to each other and sharing our heritage: this is what Many Branches, One Tree is all about!  L.H.T.


Next: J. Gil Alberto Cayetano HUESCA