March 16, 1932 - May 27, 2012
Mom, mentor, beacon, friend, and our beautiful free spirited butterfly
JULIA GLEDYS MENENDEZ
Our Mom's Life
Our Mom, Julia, passed away on May 27, 2012 surrounded by her two sons, friends and our wonderful caregivers in her San Antonio home after a six-year struggle with Alzheimer's. Please join us in our fight against this devastating disease and in our celebration of her life.
Julia was born in Artemisa, Cuba, on March 16, 1932. She grew up on a farm with her nurturing parents Julia and Francisco and brothers Rolando, Raul and Carlos, where they raised livestock, produced dairy products, cultivated potatoes, plantains, sweet potatoes (boniato), yucca, avocado and many tropical fruits. Her parents immigrated to Cuba from La Palma, Canary Islands.
Insisting that her daughter receive the best education available in Cuba, our grandmother sent Mom to primary and finishing school in Havana run by the Catholic Church. A talented oil painter in her youth, she later graduated from La Normal de Kindergarten with a degree in primary education. At age 20, Mom married our father, Jorge Alberto Menendez, a young doctor who's father had been my Mom's family doctor from birth. Interestingly enough our Grandfather had also been the pediatrician of the world famous trumpet player Arturo Sandoval who grew up in Artemisa.
In the early 1950s Artemisa, became the hotbed of revolutionary activity with regular meetings in town halls and houses. In 1958, Mom gave birth to her first son Jorge Luis, at the height of the fighting during the Cuban Revolution. Her second son, Carlos Alberto was born on May 22, 1961 amidst blackouts and curfews, 17 days after the Bay of Pigs invasion. In the days that followed, the island became gripped by fear as Committees in Defense of the Revolution were set up as neighborhood spying networks, property was seized, and people disappeared or were summarily executed for suspected counterrevolutionary activities. During that time our father, Jorge, and his friends frequently went into hiding suspected of aiding the resistance.
During the Cuban missile crisis, Fidel Castro concealed nuclear missiles in the sugarcane fields surrounding Artemisa in an effort to evade American U2 spy planes. The camouflaged missiles would be moved at night on flatbed trucks on la Carretera Central, which ran directly in front of our house. In a period of a few years, our hometown town had changed from bucolic farm town to 'ground zero' in the US Soviet nuclear standoff of 1962.
On February 1, 1968 my mother received a telegram from the Cuban authorities informing us that my father who had been exiled a year before, had secured an exit visa for her, my brother and I. They gave us 24 hours to pack thirty pounds of clothing between the three of us and say goodbye to our family. This would be the last time that my mother would see her mother and father again. On February 2, 1968 we left Cuba for temporary exile in Mexico City before entering the United States on March 3, 1968, under the Cuban Refugee Act.
We soon settled into a small apartment on the south side of San Antonio amid the excitement of the 1968 World's Fair. Dad worked long hours at the state psychiatric hospital while Mom established connections with other families in the Cuban exile community. Our small apartment was the site of many lively dinners and dancing as if they were still partying at the Tropicana. Sadly just twelve years after our arrival in the United States, my father died of a heart attack at age 53.
At 49, Mom had become a widow with one son in medical school in Dallas and the other just out of high school. Mom went to work in retail at Foley's (now Macy's) in San Antonio's North Star Mall. There she worked tirelessly for twenty-two years winning repeated awards for being the top salesperson. She gained a loyal clientele because of her honesty, charisma and flawless sense of style. Jorge became a respected plastic surgeon in San Antonio and Carlos became an architect and set designer on Hollywood motion pictures.
The tragic separation from her parents as well as her friends and her country, followed by the sudden death of her husband was at times very difficult for Mom to bear. But despite these great losses, she endured by actively embracing life. She found great joy in music concerts, theater, cooking, card games, and visiting her sons. She loved making desserts for her friends when they were ill or needed a lift.
We will never forget my mother's generosity, loyalty, elegance and sense of style. In honor of our mom's beautiful strong will to survive, we want to extend hope to those trying to overcome this disease.
We love you Mom, and you will forever be in our hearts.
Thank you for your support.
Carlos & Jorge Menendez
To join us, or to find our more information on Alzheimer's,
visit the Alzheimer's Association website: http://www.alz.org/