Sunday, February 25, 2024

My Dad - Felipe Montoya Fajardo

This blog that I have been writing about my family has been a blessing to me in so many ways. I started writing it years ago for my children and grandchildren to have after I'm no longer here to answer family questions. Meanwhile, about once a month I get an email from a distant cousin who has run across my blog while doing ancestry research. It seems that if anyone does a Google search on Puerto de Luna, New Mexico, my blog is likely to appear. This month it was a cousin named Anna Madrid. She lives in Los Angeles, California, however, her family is from Puerto de Luna, NM. I should mention that nobody who still lives in New Mexico  reaches out to me with questions about their family tree. Those who still live in New Mexico are pretty much uninterested in meeting even one more cousin. It's always those of us who are the first or second generations to have left our homeland after our ancestors had been there for 400 years. We are sort of like fish out of water. So Anna told me she was researching her father's side of the family because she didn't know much about that branch of her family and noticed they were in my family extensive family tree on I totally relate to that. The majority of my blog has been written based on the parts of my family history that were once a mystery to me. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until my parents were gone, that I had not ask enough questions or listen long enough to our family stories. I started listening when I sat down with my mother to create a slide show for her memorial service about a month before she passed away. I realized then that I should have been asking those questions all along, as she joyously told me about each photo from her past.

My mother and father were both born to well established families of the small community of Puerto de Luna, New Mexico which was a prosperous little town at the turn of the century (1900 that is) 

My dad's mother, Josefita Labadie Fajardo, was from the very affluent Labadie family. Sadly, she died of the Spanish Flu in 1918, when my father was only 3 years old. I have three photos of him as a child, but oddly there isn't much of a paper trail of his childhood. I have always assumed it was because after his mother death he may have been shuffled around to relatives when he was a very young child. Below is a photo of my dad when he was a baby before his mother died, then another with his dad, Doroteo Fajardo, step-mother, Perfecta and sister, Anita and then there's one of him and his sister, Anita with his father, Doroteo and their half siblings Joe and Consuelo. I always assumed that his mom's maiden name was Montoya because he was named Felipe Montoya Fajardo but I discovered that his mother's father had died when she was young and she was raised by a stepfather named Antonio Montoya. I still don't know much about him except that he worked a the store in Puerto de Luna. I also assumed that he spent a lot of time with his step-Montoya cousins because they were close but I have since discovered from the census forms of those families that they were in Kansas and Oklahoma and my dad wasn't on any of those forms.

My father, Felipe Montoya Fajardo
as an infant

My father, Felipe Montoya Fajardo,
his step-mother Perfecta Rivera Fajardo,
his father, Doroteo Fajardo and
his younger sister Anita Fajardo

My father's full sister, Anita, my father, Felipe, my father's half brothter Jose Fajardo, Doroteo Fajardo and my father's half sister Consuelo Fajardo

Like me, my mother, was born and raised in the same house and like me, both of her parents lived long lives. I was able to go to my maternal grandparents house and visualize what her life may have been like as a child. I cherish my childhood memories on that farm. I am also extremely grateful to have the memories with my own children and grandchildren that have been kept alive with thousands of photographs and videos. 

My paternal grandparents, Doroteo Fajardo and Josefita Labadie got married in May 12, 1915, 14 days before the birth of my father. I have wondered if that was because the priest only came around on occasion. I have found documents showing 160 acres in New Mexico being owned by by my grandfather, Doroteo Fajardo, dated November 18, 1916 and another dated December 6, 1920. I don't know where this land is and I don't remember ever hearing about this land.

I also found a military enlistment card for my grandfather showing that he went to the service June 5, 1916. My father would have only been a year old.

Now we've come to the whole reason I am writing this chapter of my blog. My recent conversations with my new found friend/cousin Anna Madrid helped me to remember my father's colorful stories when he went to the army. He loved to tell the story that he and his friend, Livy Madrid were the first ones to enlist in the army from Guadalupe County, New Mexico. This week I went down the "MADRID" rabbit hole of my family tree and last night I had a light bulb moment and realized that both my father and Livy Madrid's registration cards were dated October 19,1940. I wish my dad were here to see this! I guess he is here in spirit or I wouldn't have found this gem!

Military Registration
Felipe Montoya Fajardo

Military Registration
Livy Romero Madrid

I also found a census taken in 1940 showing that Livy was living in Santa Rosa, NM with his sister and brother-in-law. Unable to find a census with my father's name on it in 1940, I found one with my grandfather, Doroteo Fajardo and his second wife Perfecta (my dad's step-mother) and their 6 children. My dad didn't have a good relationship with his step-mother so he was long gone from that scene and I am sure the army seemed like the perfect way to "get out of Dodge" and go see the world.My dad and Livy were both 25 years old, both of them were living in Santa Rosa and both of them unemployed. Time to hit the road! He did his basic training in San Antonio, or as he called it "his old stomping grounds." On the day of my dad's funeral, his 2 half sisters told me and my sister that our dad dated Lydia Mendoza while he was stationed in San Anton.... as he called it. Lydia was a guitarist and singer considered to be "The Mother of Tejano Music." She was a year younger than my dad, born May 31, 1916. Interesting. My mom's birthday was May 31 as well.

My dad, being the positive force that he was, only talked about the good times in the service. I discovered much later in life that he was in the 2nd Infantry Division. Below is the route of the 2nd Infantry Division. He fought at the Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day in 1944, he fought until the end of the end of the war, The Battle of Bulge in 1945.

When my dad returned from the war, his 1st cousin Jose Fajardo and my mom's younger sister, Connie Padilla Fajardo had been married and they got my mom and dad to go out on a date. They married shortly there after and they were married for 56 years.

My grandson Dylan Ethridge
now proudly has his great-grandfather, Felipe M Fajardo's flag.

This blog post was inspired by a few text messages, emails and conversations I had with my cousin, Anna Madrid. When we first started communicating, I was sure that the closest DNA connection we had would be through the Madrid family, but as it turns out we are related through the Padilla lineage and that is a whole other blog post!
I will close with a story about the day my father died. He and my mother had just bought a new stove. It was delivered to their house in Amarillo and was being installed. My mother insisted  that he sit on the couch while it was being installed because he had not been feeling well that morning. But he insisted on going in the kitchen saying " I need to make sure they aren't doing a Mickey Mouse job." He went in the kitchen and was watching the installation. He suddenly had a heart attack and died. My sister, Nita called me at work to let me know my father had passed. I had been house sitting for friends who lived in Travis Heights, just about a mile from the newspaper. I went to gather my belongings to make the trip to Amarillo for my father's memorial service. I opened the front door and walked into the house and asheaf of wheat gently fell in front of me as I walked into the house. I picked it up and leaned it against the wall behind the door, where it seemed to have fallen from. I was too distraught to even think about it. When I returned from Amarillo, my friend that I had been house sitting for called me at work and said she was bringing my personal belongings that I had left at her house when I left in a hurry. She showed up at my office with some clothes and this tall sheaf of wheat. I looked at her oddly and told her it wasn't mine, but she insisted it wasn't hers so I took it home. I put it in the corner in my living room and didn't think about it for a while. Months later I did a little research and discovered that a sheaf of wheat represents abundance, resurrection, sustenance, harvest, fertility and the cycle of life. Wheat being sown is used as a symbol of remorse.