Esther Donaldson Torres was born September 4, 1905 in the small town of Faywood, New Mexico on a ranch next to the Mimbrus River. She was the sixth child born to Andrea and Francisco Torres and there would be six more children after she was born. Perhaps being the middle child in this large family helped to make her the independent, strong person she became.
Growing up, Esther loved the outdoors and rather than help with household chores and tend to her younger siblings, she preferred working on the ranch with her father and younger brother, Procopio. It was said she was a tomboy and loved to ride a horse alongside her brothers.
Esther went to a nearby 1-room country school run by Maude McSherry, going to the 7th grade but quit school when she left home to follow her sisters, Anita and Dora to work in the government hospital in nearby Ft. Bayard. Annie worked and lived in the nursing headquarters while Dora and Esther worked in the dining room and lived in Central, NM, a short distance away. Their mother, Andrea, followed them there with some of the younger children, including their older sister, Lucy. Their father stayed home at the ranch with the older boys.
In 1923, Annie led the way to Los Angeles, California followed by Dora, and later Esther was sent for after enough money was saved for her trip to California by train. They first lived with a family friend and worked to help save money for other family members to make the journey to California. When the rest of the family arrived in Los Angeles, there was not enough room for them all in the home they rented, so Harriet, Minnie and Ida were enrolled in boarding school, with Esther’s guidance and help. The rest of the family, including Grandma Andrea, Lucy, Julian and Eva and Esther settled in Boyle Heights with Dora and Anita and their spouses nearby. Esther worked hard to support her family and Grandma depended on her for support. For awhile, she worked at the American Can Co. and then worked in a laundry as a presser.
Esther was a fun loving young lady and had many friends. She and her friends and some of her sisters went to parties, dances, and enjoyed going to the beach and the local mountains. In the early 30’s she met the man who was to become her husband, Luciano Saldana. Esther and Luciano were married and she settled down to become a housewife and mother. Son Arthur was born in December, 1931 and daughter Virginia was born in 1934. Luciano was in Olive View Sanitarium in Sylmar, California recovering from TB when his appendix ruptured and he died. Arthur was barely 3 years old and Virginia was 8 months old when their father died. Esther became a widow at a young age with two babies to raise.
She went back to work and with the aid of family members who helped with the children, she was able to buy her home in El Sereno in 1940 where she raised her family and where she lived until she went into a retirement home in 1998. She loved her home and especially her garden. Many days, especially on week-ends and when she retired, she would get up, have her cup of coffee and go outside and before she realized it, she had spent ? day tending to her garden.
Esther loved her grandchildren and was especially involved in the young lives of Nancy and Dino, her first grandchildren. She had 8 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren when she died in 2002 at the age of 96.
Esther had a special fondness for her birthplace, beautiful New Mexico. She loved to go back there and visit the little town of Faywood where she had many relatives and friends. She had a special place in her heart for that beautiful little area and would visit as often as she could; she loved the wide open space, the Mimbrus River which ran close to the family home and the mountains in the distance and the beautiful, gorgeous sky.
And, her family was such an important part of her life. She was very close to her brothers and sisters; from her older brother, Tony, who she was especially close to and who helped her so much and, to her baby sister, Eva. Her large family had some hard times as so many people of that time had, but, oh, they knew how to live and to have a good time. What fun they would have at Uncle Tony’s place in South Pasadena when they all gathered, with children in tow!
(submitted by cousin Virginia)