Uncle Epi was born on April 7, 1911, the year William Howard Taft was president. That is a hell of a long time ago. He was born in Blanco, New Mexico and was the oldest child of Celestino and Tonita Jacques. His parents had been married in 1910 and were living with Celestino’s parents, Juan N. and Ana Maria Jacques. I have tried to give my own perspective on my aunts and uncle that I have written about thus far. However, with Uncle Epi, he was only a memory to my father and I, unfortunately, never met him. But, we are able to get to know him in a variety of ways. He is the oldest in this picture and so darn handsome. You can tell by the way he’s holding Aunt Jane what a good big brother he is and he’s wearing a suit. How adorable is that. By 1920, they are still living with Juan N. and Ana Maria and Celestino is working with his father as a farmer.
Here is that census. Uncle Epi is 9 years old, is in school, and can read and write. If we jump to 1930, the family is now living in Denver, Colorado.
By now, Grandpa Jacques owns a ranch and is raising stock. That makes sense as adult children were expected to stay at home and help their parents and families. Uncle Epi is 19, Aunt Della is 18, Uncle Ernest 16, Uncle Fred 15, Uncle Frank 14, Aunt Jane 13, Aunt Dorothy 10, my dad Timothy is only 2 and a half, and Aunt Angie was only four months old. That is a full house. We are fortunate to have my cousin Perpetua (Perpie) give us an accounting of how Uncle Epi and Aunt Nora met. Nora Garcia was selling cosmetics door to door and she wanted to see who lived in her old house. It was the Jacques family. Tonita told Aunt Nora to come back when her son was home, as he was the one who was working and had money. Aunt Nora became friends with Aunt Della. Uncle Epi and Aunt Nora started dating and got married on December 9, 1931. Such a cute couple. You can see how attractive they are and they look totally in love. Now, I can assume the idea of her son getting married sent Tonita straight over the edge. It would have been that way with any of her sons getting married. No woman would have been good enough for Tonita. I am certain it was as rough for Aunt Nora as it was for my own mother. Something tells me Tonita was not the most generous when it came to her son’s time or affection. I love this picture of Aunt Nora and her sister, Eloisa. She is so stylish and beautiful! I am certain this is what she looked like when she met Uncle Epi. Here is Della’s wedding picture and both Epi and Nora were attendants. You can tell how close Aunt Nora was with her new sister in law. Here is another of some of Aunt Nora’s family. This is a picture of Ben Garcia, Emma Garcia and an unknown person. For most of my life Aunt Emma lived with Aunt Nora and always came to family parties with her. Epi and Nora’s first child was Imelda. She was born on July 9, 1933 in Denver, Colorado. So this was during the Great Depression and Uncle Epi and Aunt Nora were still living with Grandma and Grandpa Jacques. Grandpa Jacques finally told Uncle Epi and Aunt Nora they should move out, since life with Tonita was unbearable. I don’t blame them one bit. It certainly would have been unbearable, no doubt. They had Joanne in 1935, Rosalie in 1937, Frank in 1939, Perpie in 1940, Richard (Dickie) in 1942 and Jimmy in 1943. Here he is, Uncle Joe Serna on the left, Uncle Epi on the right, holding one of his babies (I suspect it is Joanne, who would have been a bit older than Rosemary). Here he is again, this time with his sister Angie, Aunt Nora and his two oldest babies. On the far left is Angelina Garcia, Aunt Nora’s sister, then Aunt Dorothy, Aunt Nora, Imelda, Angie,Tim, Tonita, Aunt Jane, Celestino, then Uncle Epi holding Joanne and Viola in front of Grandma Jacques. Uncle Epi was a big tease and liked to tease his sisters about their weight. He was also an avid reader. Epi and Nora stuck it out in Denver for a bit longer but received many letters from the family saying how much better it was in California and so they moved in 1941. Dickie was born in Pittsburg, California and Jimmy was born in Stockton, California. There was another baby by the name of Ralph who was born after Imelda, but he died from pneumonia. Perpie says that Uncle Epi wanted another boy after Frank but she was born instead. She says her dad felt bad because she was a girl, but then started calling her his “Queenie” and that Epi took her everywhere with him, including to visit his mother. Epi was devoted to his mother. Uncle Epi worked hard for his family. His jobs included working as a post man, part time work at a service station on Wilson Way in Stockton, just two houses away from their home, and working in the shipyards. Epi did all of the clothes and grocery shopping for his family. He was a hands on dad. In Colorado, he was a parishioner of St. Cajetan’s Parish in Denver. He was President and Secretary of the Holy Name and Christian Doctrine Society, a member of the Knights of Columbus, helped start a Credit Union, and was elected it’s first secretary. Here is a copy of the Stockton City Directory from 1942 when they lived at 1429 E. Channel in Stockton
Epi was well loved. I know this for a fact because my father loved him greatly. When my dad was getting ready to take off for the army during World War II (The Big One), he went to tell his brother good bye. Uncle Epi said they should go and get their picture taken together, since Daddy was leaving. They went down to the photographer’s studio and arrived to find that it was closed. They were never able to get their picture taken together and this was the last time my father saw his brother.
Here he is in approximately 1941 or 1942 with Frankie along with Uncle Ernest, Ernie, Grandpa Celestino, and Grandpa Juan N. Here is another adorable picture of Frankie. Uncle Epi’s story is a sad one. He was working at the shipyard and had volunteered to take someone else’s shift. He was working down in a ditch when he was hit on the head with the bucket of a backhoe and was killed. What wasn’t known at the time was that the backhoe operator was drunk and the company covered it up, saying that he had fallen. So painful to think about that and it left a huge hole in his family that was impossible to fill. Perpie remembers the funeral. “I remember the funeral and all the crying and darkness and Grandma fainting and all the drama around me but we were not allowed to grieve. My mom was a pillar or at least I thought so because I never saw her cry until I was much older.” They tried to get my dad home from overseas for the funeral but that was not to be. Instead, they took a picture of Uncle Epi in his casket. My father put together a memory page for Uncle Epi. I could always tell my dad felt terrible for the way he lost him and how it affected his family. Grandma Jacques immediately blamed Aunt Nora. Obviously, Aunt Nora had no blame in his death so Tonita wasn’t being rational, but she had lost her precious son and I can’t imagine the horror of that situation. After Uncle Epi was gone, my dad said Aunt Nora would go to the cemetery and talk to Uncle Epi’s headstone, asking him what she should do when she would have a problem with one of her kids. Talk about a strong woman. Aunt Nora went on to raise her family on her own. She had her Garcia family to rely on and Aunt Emma lived with Aunt Nora and helped her in numerous ways. We continued to see our cousins intermittently, but I know my father always grieved for his brother and that loss, just as his wife and children did. My dad attended Perpie’s daughter’s weddings, as his representative. I love that. My dad stepped in for his brother. Joanne, Jimmy, Imelda, Aunt Nora and Perpie at Aunt Della’s funeral.
I spoke to Dickie recently who said, “The time your Dad and Mom spent with us was very special. I took your Dad around the State Capitol where I worked and I remember as he was leaving he took me aside by myself and told me how proud my Dad would have been of me and the tears just started flowing.” That trip to New York meant a lot to my dad and I was pleased that it meant a lot to Dickie as well. We lost Uncle Epi well before we should have and his loss was a gigantic hole in the entire family. Epifanio Nepomuceno Jacques died on January 17, 1945 in Stockton, CA, leaving behind his loving wife Nora and seven children, Imelda, Joanne, Rosalie, Frank, Perpetua, Richard and Jimmy. He is, indeed, sorely missed. We took flowers out to Uncle Epi’s grave today and it still looks great, 70 years later!