Birth 14 June 1898
Grant County, NM
Death 8 Nov 1996
Los Angeles, CA
By Virginia Saldana Dickson
My Uncle Tony was a special man and one of the important people in my life and beloved by his family and friends.
Antonio Donaldson Torres was born in 1899 on a ranch in Faywood, New Mexico to my maternal grandparents, Francisco and Andrea Torres. He was the eldest of 12 children and much loved and respected by his siblings.
When he was a child, he began helping his father on the ranch, doing whatever was needed. He helped with the cattle and horses and the raising of crops for their food and for their cattle. His schooling was interrupted at an early age because his help was needed on the ranch, especially as the family grew.
In the 1920’s when he was a young man, the Torres family, seeking work, began migrating from the family ranch, first to small towns nearby and then to Los Angeles. But Uncle Tony, along with his father and younger brother, Procopio, stayed on and worked the family ranch. He loved the outdoors, loved animals and learned early on that city life was not for him.
Through the years, he wandered from New Mexico to L.A. and places in between, working on ranches, mining gold in the west, doing carpenter work and whatever he could do to make a living.
In the 1940’s, on one of his trips into town, he found and purchased a beautiful piece of property at 120 Peterson Avenue in South Pasadena on 4 or 5 acres of land with two old houses and a stable and corral for horses. He moved my grandmother and his unmarried sister, my Aunt Lucy, into one of the houses and my Uncle Julian and his young family lived in the other house. When he came into town, this is where he stayed and it was at this place where the family often gathered.
When he was in town, he was always busy improving the property, making repairs and additions to the houses and adding walkways, stairs and fences. On the stairs and walkways, he added glass bottles and pieces of clay to the concrete in interesting designs – whatever looked pretty and interesting to him.
Because of his wanderlust, he was not around all the time, but when he came into town, it was always a special time. His sisters (there were 8 of them) all adored him and would do anything for him.
My cousins and I loved it when our Uncle Tony came into town. He was tall and thin and wore western shirts and pants and beautiful tooled boots and a cowboy hat. Us city raised nieces and nephews had our own cowboy and thought he was really special. He was tough, but oh, so gentle. He spent hours talking to us kids about his adventures, showing us all the artifacts he had collected along the way. He seemed to always to have an endless collection of gold dust in tiny bottles, Indian arrowheads and interesting rocks of all sorts. And always, he would tell us stories about his little treasures. He was the most generous person, especially with his time, and you never left him without some little treasure or trinket.
My mother and Uncle Tony had a special relationship. Mother was widowed when she was quite young and when he would come into town he always helped her do things around our property. Once, he lived with us for a short time while he put a small addition on to our house and another time he fixed up our backyard, putting in concrete stairs and walls. He was so sweet with my Mom; he was someone she could depend on. I never saw him get angry and or raise his voice.
Uncle Tony’s education was limited, probably going only as far as 7th grade because he was needed on the ranch, but I’ve often wondered what he would have accomplished if he had had more education. He always seemed to be interested in so many things and had a natural intelligence. I don’t know if he would have been any happier or content if he had been better educated or more prosperous. I don’t think so. He took such pleasure in small things that material things did not seem to matter to him.
My Uncle Tony knew how to do so many things. He knew how to break horses, round up cattle and build houses. He built his last house by himself when he was in his 70’s on property he bought in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, in Olancha, by Lone Pine, California. What a beautiful setting. The exterior of the house was built entirely of rock he found in the area. On the property, he discovered an underground spring and he brought water to the house and to his garden. He had more water than he needed.
My Uncle Tony lived a long, productive life and died when he was 96 years old. Even though he never married he was in the center of a large and loving family. There was great love and respect for this man because there was nothing artificial about him. To his nieces and nephews he was a most interesting person and to all of us in the family, he was someone very special.