Last Saturday two things converged in my mind to create this week’s column. First I noticed a poster about next month’s annual Basque Picnic, and then I came home to watch the emotional funeral service of our past first lady, Barbara Bush. The two very different subjects were both perfect examples of legacies. Listening to the tributes given about Barbara Bush one was impressed by how her life had affected so many and that it would continue to do so. One of my favorite quotes of hers is: “Put your arms around each other.”
The Basque Picnic, to be held at the Fairgrounds May 20, is a testament to a way of life that is ingrained in the descendants of the Basque people who traveled to the Central Valley. Generations later they still dance on top of filled wine glasses, a marvel to behold. We do not have to be Basque to be enriched by this event filled with its richness of tradition, just as we do not have to have known Barbara Bush to have been impressed with her role in history.
Within Los Banos, we are filled with magnificent examples of both forms of legacy. We have a strong sense of heritage handed down by the immigrants who bravely traveled to Los Banos to begin a new life. We also have been given an amazing number of remarkable people who in their unique way left us their own rich legacy.
Lucille Latronica taught me so much about life and I am struck with the memory she once shared of her father and the legacy of strength he bequeathed to her. From Portugal, he brought his legacies with him, including his Portuguese guitar. However, it was his incredible strength in the face of adversity that impressed Lucille most. “ He lost two wives, raised two daughters, and lost two legs, but he never complained. He had a philosophy on life that was amazing.”
Manuel Alvarez's father continues to be a source of strength and example. “Dad was a true hero. Just eight weeks after he came here from Portugal he was sent off to World War II. He taught me everything I knew.”
Mary Fatima Nunes' father taught her that God should be the priority in your life. “He came to America when he was just 12 years old. Even after he went blind he never lost his belief that family and God are what matters.”
I also remember Beverley De Parisa talking about her parents who came to America from Nova, Italy. “ These were such strong people, while Daddy worked for Henry Miller driving a mule train over Pacheco Pass my mother waited 15 years to join him. They believed in family, duty and hard work. In time my parents bought 60 acres on Overland to farm. They taught me values.”
Sally Paternain once told me that her dedication to helping others came from her father, Theodore `Teddy` Vigneau, who came to America from Par, France,: He was an intelligent person, his main message to us was always to help others.”
As we lead into May Day, we are filled with the cumulative legacy given to us by Henry Miller. It seems unthinkable to me not to attend this rite of spring, or to watch the Basque dancers at on May 20. A visit to our incredible Milliken Museum will help any of us become even more acquainted with our town's legacies. Better yet, ask your loved ones to share their stories. Part of who we are is what our ancestors were. Los Banos a rich history filled with stories of immigrants, love, family and determination. From both yesterday and today we have legacies precious to inspire us into the future.
Diana Ingram Thurston can be reached at email@example.com.