They were here

INTERVIEWS WITH ARIZONANS WHO WERE ALIVE ON STATEHOOD DAY
2012-02-05T00:00:00Z They were here Arizona Daily Star
February 05, 2012 12:00 am

Frescia Calvillo-Amparon, age 100

Her son, Hector, says his mother was "willing to give up" in 2005 before he needed quadruple bypass surgery. She kept going to take care of him, and now that's mutual at their home in Cucamonga, Calif. "We take care of each other," Hector says.

Frescia was born six months before statehood in Tucson, the daughter of Jesus and Ignacio Calvillo. She moved to California when she was 18 or 19 to help a sister and stayed. She met her husband, Emilio, there. He died in 1982.

Her memories of Tucson are hazy - or at least she doesn't choose to share them with a nosy reporter - but she remembers being baptized a Catholic and attending Roskruge school.

Her father was a miner, a federal marshal, a Tucson constable and a prison warden. He was also a founder in 1894 of Alianza Hispano-Americana, which was the largest Hispanic mutual aid society in the U.S.

The mine, La Bonanza, was near Kitt Peak, and Hector said his mother has talked fondly of playing a stick-ball game called tóka with Indian children in the area.

Of Frescia's three brothers and four sisters, one survives, Elvira Calvillo Gallegos, who is 94 and lives in Tucson.

Carmen Amado Acevedo, age 103

Carmen Amado was born at the ranch her family homesteaded in Amado, the sixth of seven children.

Her mother, Maria de Carmen Amado-Celaya, died in 1910 in a motor-vehicle accident, leaving her father, Demetrio Amado-Ferrer, to raise the family.

He had a law degree and studied medicine, and he emphasized the importance of education, even going so far as to hire teachers and build a schoolroom onto the house for his own and neighboring children.

"Carmen excelled in school and even skipped a grade, but disliked history, as she preferred to look ahead," her granddaughter, Gloria D. Roberts, wrote to the Star. "To this day, she still dislikes history and does not always enjoy talking about the past but, rather, looking to the future."

She moved to Tucson to attend Safford and Tucson High, living with two sisters in a family duplex on North Fourth Avenue next to what is now Caruso's restaurant.

She was chaperoning her cousin, Cecilia Cervanti, to the Blue Moon ballroom when she first danced with her future husband, Cornelio Acevedo. He was on a date with someone else.

They married in 1935 and were together until Cornelio died in 1973. They have one daughter, Marcella.

Carmen was in a weekly bowling league until she was in her late 80s, maintaining an average of 156. A torn ligament put an end to that sport. To add some fun back to life, she went with family to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and rode the roller coaster, log and teacups.

She decided to stop driving at age 90 even though the family thought she was still skilled behind the wheel. It was her 95-year-old sister's car accident and close calls with bad drivers that prompted her to quit. She suffers from macular degeneration but still cooks and bakes and is planning her spring garden.

"Mela," as she is nicknamed, is "always ready for her next adventure or learning experience," her granddaughter says.

One of her favorite sayings is El caballo está ensillado y me monto - the horse is saddled and I will ride.

- Thanks to Gloria D. Roberts for providing the information for this story.

Estella Vijil Vasquez, AGE 101

She was born near Casbabel, east of Tucson, on a ranch homesteaded by her grandfather, Antonio Campo Soza, in 1880.

Estella's mother, Rosaura Moreno Soza, was also born on the ranch and married a vaquero who worked there, Juan Vijil.

Estella has told family over the years that she owes her longevity, in part, to the physical work she's done - first on the ranch and later cleaning homes in Tucson.

"She's always been a hard worker," says her granddaughter, Lucinda Vasquez Abril. Even now, "she tinkers and moves around constantly."

Estella married Carlos M. Vasquez, a wrangler and later a state worker, and the couple had seven children. They moved to Tucson in 1943, and Carlos died in 1954.

Estella, then 43, worked as a housekeeper to support herself and daughters Ida, Theresa and Grace. Her only son, Roy, was in the Navy.

She doesn't talk a lot about Tucson then versus now, her granddaughter says, except to complain about traffic and that the city is too big.

She lives in the same west-side home she and Carlos bought in 1952. One of her daughters, Grace Trippe, still lives in Tucson.

Family helps out and checks on her, but she's independent, Lucinda says.

"She's got a lot of spunk in her."

Alice Peralta Zepeda, age 100

The youngest of three girls born to Tucsonans Cruz and Manuela Peralta, Alice says she had a good childhood.

That changed dramatically when she was 7. There was a flu pandemic, and everyone in the extended household of 15 was sick except for one aunt. In a misguided effort to help, her aunt put Alice's legs in a mustard bath of boiling water.

The burns were so severe that Alice spent two years in bed and had to learn to walk again.

By the time she became a student at Tucson High, she was an athlete, competing in the hurdles, basketball and other sports.

She graduated in 1929 and dearly wanted to attend college, but the family couldn't afford it.

Instead, Alice used the short-hand skills she learned in high school and landed a job as a secretary.

She worked various jobs, including at the Red Cross, where she handled shifts delivering blood to Safford and other places in Southern Arizona.

Her most exciting job was as secretary to Tucson Police Chief Harold Wheeler in the 1940s. She carried a badge and a Smith & Wesson.

"We used to practice every so often," she recalls, but she never used the gun on anyone.

"I probably could hit somebody in the shoulder when I meant to kill them," she says.

She also worked in billing for the water department, and in 1935 married Fernando Zepeda, whose family had come to Arizona about 1915 to escape the Mexican Revolution. He was a hotel manager and then owned and operated a jukebox business.

Their son, also named Fernando, says his parents loved to dance and, between them, weighed about 210 pounds.

"We were little skinny things," agrees Alice, whose nickname is "Chiqui," the diminutive for small.

The couple had three children. In a recent interview, Alice was upbeat except when she said "children should not die before their parents," in reference to the death of her only daughter, Yanula.

Before her husband died in 2006 at age 95, the couple traveled widely, including to China, Africa, New Zealand, Japan, France, Portugal, Panama and elsewhere. They also traveled the United States by bus.

Alice also was a literacy volunteer for many years and especially enjoyed tutoring Chinese-speaking relatives of UA students.

These days, she lives with her son and, as he puts it, "celebrates each day with a walk in the morning and another in the evening." Alice also looks forward to going out to shop and to Sunday brunch.

She uses a walker and is hard of hearing, but her mind is sharp. She works the crossword puzzle in the Star and makes up word games, which she meticulously prints in a notebook.

"I've had a pretty good life, thank God."

Hermione Gerrish Williams, age 100

She was born in Wickenburg to Mary Longerot and Cliffton L. Gerrish. They moved to nearby Congress Junction when Hermione was about 5 because her father and uncle had won contracts to deliver mail to mining camps in Stanton and Octave.

She traveled by wagon to attend first grade in Congress, three miles away, and the family moved to Congress proper the next year. She remembers waving to troop trains passing through Congress Junction during World War I, her daughter, Kay Ludeke, says.

Williams also remembers once meeting Arizona's first governor, George W.P. Hunt, as he stopped at the Congress Junction train station for a rally.

She landed her first teaching "job" as a junior in high school in Jerome. The teacher fell ill, and Hermione was asked to teach the Spanish class for about seven weeks.

Williams went on to graduate from Arizona State Teachers College, first with a teaching certificate and then, in 1933, with a bachelor's degree in home economics and chemistry. Her first job was at a one-room school in Walnut Grove, where, during the depths of the Depression, she became the sole support of her family for four years.

She next moved to a two-room school in Skull Valley, and it was during this period that she met her future husband, Texan Horton Williams, at a dance. At first, they kept their 1936 marriage a secret because married women weren't allowed to teach in Skull Valley and many other districts in those days. A notice of the marriage finally appeared in the Arizona Republic newspaper three years later.

The couple had two children, Dillard and Kay, and later lived in Wickenburg, Mesa, Florence and Tombstone. Mrs. Williams taught elementary school in Tombstone from 1954 until 1977.

She now lives in Tucson with her daughter and is an avid reader of books on tape through the state's Braille and Talking Book Library.

The secret to her longevity, Williams says, is that she always has something to look forward to - such as the pending arrival of her 10th great-grandchild.

And at her 100th birthday party, she invited the guests to her 105th, daughter Kay says.

- Compiled by Bobbie Jo Buel

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...
View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: