Monday, July 7, 2014

Cecilia Caballero Richmond, San Francisco Native (52 Ancestors #27)

This is another article for the series "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks", a challenge by Amy Johnson Crow on No Story Too Small.

Please welcome Guest Blogger and my husband, Scott Richmond with a remembrance of his mother.

My mother was born Geneva Caballero on 16 June 1919 at San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, San Francisco County, California.  The story passed down through the years was that she was born in either the lobby or a hospital corridor because she came so quickly.

Cecilia Caballero, age 13, (right) with siblings
Carmen and Peter, and cousin Kenny
(Denise H. Richmond Collection) 
Throughout most of her life, she believed that she was born Cecilia Caballero on 12 June 1919.  But when she needed to obtain a copy of her official birth certificate she discovered otherwise. Nevertheless, she continued to use Cecilia and the June 12th birth date for the remainder of her life.

Mom was the tenth of 13 children born to Spanish immigrants Alfonso Caballero and Gabriella Romero Caballero  – and the eighth girl.   She grew up in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco in the shadow of the now historic Coit Tower.  The hilly streets were cumbersome to walk as they were constructed of steep, wooden stairs.  She told me stories about climbing them daily to get to and from the trolley car and school.

She attended public school in San Francisco, including Francisco Junior High School and Galileo High School.  When asked about her favorite pastime as a school-girl, she described going to movies with friends and dances with the boys.  She nearly graduated from high school.  Her father caught her cutting class in the middle of her senior year and withdrew her from school.  Arrangements were then made to have her begin working at the Hormel meat packing factory, along with her older sister Mary.  She worked there, operating the bacon machine, for several months until her marriage to my father.

The word “willful” came to mind when she described her teenage antics which didn't stop with cutting class.  She regaled me with a few stories about how she and Mary climbed out of their bedroom window to go to the movies.  This behavioral trait was life-long!

Cecilia Caballero in her black satin
 wedding suit, 12 Jun 1937
(Denise H. Richmond Collection)
Young Cecilia married Nebraskan Joseph K. Richmond on 12 June 1937.  They met in her mother’s kitchen just five weeks prior.  The marriage took place at San Francisco City Hall on what she thought was her 18th birthday.  The couple lived in San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda and Modesto before moving to Sacramento, California.  Mom recalled fondly living with my father’s mother in Oakland.  During this period, my Grandma Richmond taught her how to cook and make seamstress-quality clothes.

Their marriage produced three children: Donald in 1938, Ronald in 1944 and Scott in 1952.  She suffered a miscarriage sometime between her first and second child after falling down a flight of stairs while doing laundry.  She always lamented that she would have had a daughter.

Mom’s adult years were taken up with the activities of a wife and mother.  She and my father purchased their one and only home in April 1956 after renting for the first 19 years of their marriage.  After my Grandmother Caballero’s death in April 1970, my mother insisted on using her inheritance to pay off the mortgage.  She continued to live there until her death, some 56 years later, in November 2012.

Cecilia Caballero Richmond, 92,
25 Dec 2011
(Denise H. Richmond Collection)
She was widowed at age 57 when, in March 1977, my father died of heart failure.  She never remarried and never sought male companionship of any kind following his death.  “I don’t want to wash another’s man’s socks,” she reasoned.   She lived out her remaining years in her Sacramento home.  Her activities consisted primarily of keeping house, taking care of her yard, and trying to maintain her home as best she could.  My wife and I gave her a household repair book in the early 1980’s which she referred to often.  She saw no reason to pay a repairman if she could fix the light switch, leaking faucet or toilet herself.  And she did fix it herself on many occasions.  When a lamp shade crumbled due to age, she bought materials and made a new one, pleats and all.

She was also preceded in death by her son Donald who died of cancer in 1999.  Her signature accomplishments in life revolved around supporting her husband and caring for her three children.  The marriages of her two oldest sons produced five grandchildren but she enjoyed little to no contact with them once they became adults.  Therefore, the deaths of both a husband and eldest child must have been especially difficult for her to reconcile as she advanced into late life.  She was closest to her sisters Mary and Carmen and lamented their passing.

Cecilia Caballero Richmond, top row, second from right,
with her mother, bottom row, second from right,
and sisters and nieces at bridal shower
for her brother Peter's bride-to-be, June.
About 1945, from the Denise H. Richmond Collection.
Cecilia, the tenth child, was the last surviving member of the large Caballero family when she died of cancer in 2012 at nearly 94 years of age.  Her wish to return to her beloved San Francisco was honored.   She was interred at the only place one can be “buried” in the City, the Neptune Society Columbarium, near a stained glass window with an inset lighthouse.  She would have liked that.

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