Born: January 28, 1916,
Faywood, New Mexico
Died: August 8, 1990,
Laguna Hills, California
Julian Donaldson Torres was born in Faywood, New Mexico on January 28, 1916. The youngest boy of 3 boys and 9 girls, he spent his early years on the family farm in New Mexico along the Mimbres River; no doubt his lifelong love and respect for rural life and its values can be traced to these roots.
Julian and his sisters came to Southern California during the depression to join other family members who had already come west. He graduated from Hollenbeck Junior High School and attended Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. At 18, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps as a laborer and later worked on many large projects for the Department of the Interior. He was discharged from the CCC in 1935. In 1941, at age 25, he joined the US Army, where he was trained at Fort Leonard Wood, MO in the 478 Engineer Maintenance Company as a heavy equipment mechanic, his subsequent vocation.
Julian spent a significant part of World War II stationed in Iran and Iraq, the first time American servicemen were sent to the Middle East. These years made a lasting impression on him; he became knowledgeable about the people, their history and culture, and spoke repeatedly of his experiences and feelings for the region. No doubt the irony of his death at a time when American G.I.’s were once again digging into protect our perceived interests in that part of the world is not lost on any of us.
Following his honorable discharge from the service, Julian met and later married Margaret Romero, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, his beloved wife of 44 years. Although the portrait of a young serviceman bespeaks a handsome, confident war veteran, Julian’s introduction to Margaret had to be arranged for him by his friend Hilario (Larry) Luna of Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico who he met in Los Angeles, before the war. Larry was later to marry Margaret’s twin sister, Mary. This represents one of only a handful of times his family can remember him to have been outwardly shy.
Julian’s marriage to Margaret produced five children; Ramona Andrea b 1947, Bernice Antoinette b 1948, Juliann b 1950, Joseph Daniel b1954, and Francine Marie b 1956; all born and raised in Los Angeles, California. They in turn, had six granddaughters and two grandsons.
In 1973, after 30 years with the Los Angeles County Roads Department, Julian retired and moved with Margaret to Olancha, California, where he could return to his rural roots and his beloved High Sierras and also be close to his brother Antonio and sister Lucida and son Danny who had moved to the area while still in high school. Some of the fondest memories of Julian included a horseback ride with him over the Olancha Pass to Monache Meadows. While climbing the switchbacks on the eastern side of the pass, Francine voiced some complaints concerning her horse’s performance, which were echoed by Julie. This resulted in some rather blunt instruction from Julian regarding proper horsemanship and the like. A mild disagreement ensued, at which point Julian’s horse promptly sat down on the trail, nearly dumping him over the side and bringing his lesson to an abrupt halt. Julian’s reaction was quick and deft- after cussing his horse, he switched the subject from proper riding techniques to how one must deal with recalcitrant horses- and carried on without missing a beat. Presumably, they’re admitted stubbornness, reluctance to quit what they start, and obvious perseverance are qualities Julian’s children acquired from their father.
With Margaret, Julian also was instrumental in teaching their children a number of other values, which have helped to shape their lives, give it meaning, and for which they each have expressed their gratitude;
- the value of hard work;
- the importance of trying to learn something new each day;
- the ability to think for oneself and, if necessary, be self-sufficient;
- respect for the family’s Spanish heritage and traditions and, at the same time, for people from different culture.
- a consuming interest in history, reading and foreign languages;
- love for all animals; even in Los Angels, the Torres brood included at various times, cats, dogs including one named Bear, a horse named Old Red, a pony named Watusi, mules, goats, rabbits, chickens, a tortoise, an alligator, and assorted and various strays;
- a love of the outdoors, the changing seasons, camping, riding, ranching and the Old West;
- an abiding interest in gardening, growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, curing olives, making jerky, canning, and whipping the “wool” in grandpa’s old mattress.
- summer vacation trips to New Mexico via a Willy’s Jeep, with multiple history lessons en route.
Julian enjoyed a good argument, believed in saying what was on his mind, was relatively unimpressed by supposed status and the trappings of success, and was often irreverent toward those in positions of power. There was little doubt about where he stood on the issues of the day, and although he sometime could be grumpy and or gruff, he had a soft spot for his family and for those less fortunate than he.
He taught his children to be survivors, did his best at all times, and ALWAYS did it his way with conviction. He is remembered by his family with much devotion, love, and pride…
This is an edited version of his eulogy submitted by Ramona Andrea Torres, April 2015.