Jess J Herrera
Jess Herrera, 94, passed away in his home after a valiant struggle with cancer. A southern California native, Jess grew up in Bellflower. Jess graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He joined the Department of Water and Power of Los Angeles rising to Assistant Engineer for Design and Construction. He enjoyed his retirement traveling the world with his wife Rachel. He is survived by his Daughters Laura, Diana, and son Michael; his Grandchildren Rachelle, Ricky, Rachel, Gabriella, and Carolina; and his Great-grandchildren Brooklyn, Londyn, and Kyndall. He was a wonderful father, grandfather, and great grandfather, husband, brother, uncle, engineer, neighbor, handyman, friend, and all around great man to know. We are all blessed to have had him in our life.
Born in 1926 in LA.
Was raised by his sister Connie.
Picked walnuts as a child while attending school
Served in the US Army
Graduated in Electrical Engineering from SLO
Was one of the first Latinos to rise in the ranks at DWP to Principal Engineer
Negotiated international agreements back in the day
Decided to stop smoking one day in 1970’s “because it was stupid”, and never smoked again.
Was a prolific fisher of Mammoth Lakes.
Saved Pallettas of wood and used all extra building materials
Was a talented furniture maker
Had great style and panache
Got a Hole-In-One.
Would never buy green bananas
Always dressed for the occasion
Fell in love with Rachel when he saw her dancing at the river when she was 12.
Didn’t meet Rachel as an adult until years later at DWP.
Was a caring father to Laura and Diana and grandpa to Lisa, Rachelle and Ricky
Visited his son, a commander in the United States Navy, across the United States, internationally and also sailed on the USS Carl Vinson on a Tiger Cruise to Hawaii.
Travelledto meet his granddaughters Rachel Anne, Gabriella and Carolina when they entered this world.
Napped well with them on his shoulder.
Drew knobby knees on funny characters to jazz his grand kids.
Called you on your birthday and sang “Happy Birthday to Me”
Never stayed more than four days because visitors are like fish and get old after four days.
BBQ’d great flaming steaks and garlic and soy sauce chicken
Was a good looking man
Liked his tortillas slightly burnt
Could not afford allergies
Drew it out on Bounty Paper Towels, whatever “it” was.
Knew good wine and shared it often
Would call you in the north during February to tell you how warm it was on his patio right now.
Lived a charmed life with Rachel until her death from cancer in 2006.
Only wanted the executive summary
Enjoyed listening to Willie Nelson, Andre Rea and Linda Rondstadt
Was addicted to Downton Abbey
Enjoyed treating his ET and her friends to brunch at Zanzibar’s
Outlived his sisters and brothers
Had a Mexican Standoff with Death for ten days.
Was reunited with them and Rachel last Tuesday.
The mariachis played “The Lost Trumpeter” in heaven Wednesday night.
Good evening everyone. Before I begin to share my thoughts I wanted to acknowledge the challenging times we are in and how this pandemic situation has impacted what is a traditional way to honor our loved ones. My dad had a vision and a plan and as an engineer by trade and personality he wanted things to go according to plan and schedule. Having a 10 person limit and a webcast was not in his plan and so we will adjust accordingly. My dad was also a very social human. His smile and personality and his humor were always in force surrounded by friends and family. So to me, personally a very passive vigil with no interaction seems to me to fall short of how my dad would want this ritual and celebration to go. Waiting until the end of summer or early fall for a large socially intimate gathering where we can all be in each other’s presence and really share in the joy together that Jess brought in to everyone’s lives also seems not quite right. There are too many unknowns in planning such a major event with such uncertainty. So for an engineer like my dad, this uncertainty demands an alternative solution. With the help of my family we are going to do the next best thing and hold a virtual interactive event in a few weeks. This will allow of us to share and exchange those memories, stories, pictures, and thoughts that are so much a very special part of honoring a man like Jess in a way that more fits his style. We will share that information by next weekend once we work out the details.
So with some planning and administrative remarks out of the way, it is time for me to find some way to express in words what Jess meant to all of us. That is a daunting task, not because we can’t find those things Jess did that are worth sharing but because as I was writing this I was not sure there are enough words or even words that exist that can truly be up to the task. As a Navy Officer we are always taught the most important thing in solving the seemingly impossible problem is to start. Pick a vector, start working the problem, and a solution will come. It may not be the best but it will be better than no solution.
Jess Herrera. He was many things to all of us. He was a father to Laura, Diana and me. He was a husband to Rachel, He was a grandfather to Lisa, Rachelle, Ricky, Rachel anne, Gabby, and Carolina. And a great grandfather to Londyn, Brooklyn and Kyndall. I have to stop naming names now because the list of names for his various roles in life is expanding exponentially. He was also a brother, an uncle, an engineer, a neighbor, a woodworker, a handyman, a bridge player, a golfer, a friend and the list grows.
How can one possibly find the words for a “renaissance” man like Jess . Well, we all have them. They are in your hearts. They are in your thoughts when you think of him. I cannot possibly hope to describe those, because they are yours and they are very special. I think now is a good time to reflect on that. This vigil allows us to look into our hearts, look into our memories of Jess and to see him, to hear him and to feel him. That is a blessing. It is also a gift that he has given us because these are ours for us to keep and to reach to when we need them. I find comfort in that. I hope you can too.
So of the many things to say, the funny anecdotes, the heartfelt memories, the trips, the sayings, the jokes, the wisdom I cannot find the perfect set of things to share. Each one leads to another and then I say that I need to share something else. It is overwhelming. So I will close with a short story from my experience with my Dad this morning. Because I felt him. As I share this one inconsequential story know that it is just one of a mosaic of stories that I would share if there was the time.
One of my father’s rituals was to read the Los Angeles Times every morning with his coffee and toast. One of his favorite things was to read stories about the city and its love of Mexican food. There were a surprising amount of stories he would find about Angelinos and their burritos, the taco trucks, the restaurants, the workers, the cooks and the Mexican foodie scene. He was especially amused by the concept that Taco Tuesday was a thing and on the annual LA times special issue of top 100 restaurants there were always several taco trucks that made the list along with Wolfgang Pucks and other high end places. Always a source for a hearty laugh and shake of the head about the lowly Mexican food and its place in Angelino culture.
As I sat these last few days to come up with the words I needed, nothing came to me. Actually everything came to me and I could not sift them through it mentally. These last few days I did not have a ritual in the morning, it was always random. This morning I was committed to sitting down and finding those elusive words. I had to, this event was hours away. So I followed my dads morning ritual. I got some coffee and toast and sat down with the LA times to read it first before I started writing. This sundays edition had a food section. On page 2 there was an article titled: “Lonchero keeps rolling”. I smiled and thought what a great article, one he would talk about at the table and laugh a little about those darn taco trucks. In this particular story, Albert Hernandez is the owner of several Santa Ana based taco trucks. He started with one “Alebrijes” that sold Mexican City style standards like alambres, tortas de milnesa, and picaditas. He ended up with a fleet of 6 trucks ranging from straight forward taco trucks for construction sites to higher end trucks that worked festivals and office complexes. COVID hit this business hard. He grounded the fleet but keeps his original Alebrijes truck going. As the article came to end Albert described the tough times ahead not just for him and his business but the impact this has had on everyone and he fears the worst is yet to come. The article closed with a sentiment he shared that I could not have said better in this situation for my dads vigil and I want to to share that with you all. So I will close this short tribute to Jess Herrera with the words Albert Hernandez, taco truck owner, who said: “Difficult times are coming, But I have faith in God that we will get through this. Because we will always need tacos”
I love you dad.