Spevak: A pair of my mentors gone to another place

By John SpevakApril 1, 2013 

As we get older, more and more of our mentors die, leaving us not only saddened but a little disoriented.

As a person in his late 60s, I've lost several of my mentors in the last few years. In the last month, I lost two of them.

Both June Erreca and Arland Hillyard had, in different ways, a strong, positive influence on my life.

June Erreca was for me a model of initiative and determination.

I knew June for more than 40 years. Soon after I moved to Los Banos in 1971, I walked into the Los Banos Flower Shop to place an order.

Within a few minutes I noticed the intriguing couple who owned the shop. Emile was laid back and mellow, while June was aglow with energy.

My experience then was what I encountered each time I went into their store: I simply told June roughly what I had in mind for a flower arrangement; and, presto, within minutes she had just what I needed.

Along the way June would spontaneously share her opinions about local issues and relate stories about local history. Then she would always ask about my family.

As I came to know June more, I realized what a dynamic woman she was, not only running the flower shop but getting involved in a myriad of activities, including the Soroptimists, St. Joseph's Parish, the Native Daughters of the Golden West, and the Milliken Museum.

June was the epitome of feminism, in the very best sense of the word, before I had even heard of the term. She was a woman who didn't wait around for others to move things forward; she took charge and made things happen.

June was not shy about expressing her ideas. I never had to wonder about what she was thinking or what her position was on a topic. Before I could ask her a question, she was telling me the answer.

As I came to know more about June's life story, I realized her initiative and optimism had long been part of her character.

I liked, in particular, the story of June as a young woman in the early stages of her floral career regularly driving her used Ford pickup from Los Banos to San Francisco at midnight to buy fresh flowers to sell in her shop later that day.

Arland Hillyard, for me, was an exemplar of the kindness, gentleness, and love a man could show to his family, friends, and everyone else he met.

I came to know Arland in 2008, when he and his wife Mary Louise became part of the Writing Your Life Stories class.

In the class I came to know Arland's affable and positive spirit, not only by the stories he wrote but by the personality he gently revealed. Just with his good spirit and good will, he made everyone else in the room feel better about life.

When I asked him about his unusual first name, he said it wasn't so odd. "I'm a part of that popular song which begins, 'This land is your land; this land is Arland.'"

Arland and Mary Louise both wrote wonderful stories about their lives. Listening to their narratives and watching their interactions, I understood how much this couple, who had been married for more than a half-century, enjoyed sharing their lives and their love with each other.

Like Mary Louise, Arland also loved his children and grandchildren and great-grandchild. His stories about them were filled with warmth and affection.

Arland enjoyed writing about other family members, too, and had a keen interest in genealogy. He devoted many hours and years as a volunteer in the Family History Center of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, helping others pursue their ancestry.

And when Life Stories needed to move from the local college campus, Arland worked with leaders in his church to bring the class to the local LDS facility.

I can imagine both Arland and June now delighting other residents of heaven with their stories and laughter.

Their earthly deaths were heaven's gain, but a deep loss to me and many others in Los Banos to whom they were friends, examples, and mentors.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

The Los Banos Enterprise is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service