Elder Day 2018

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Surrounded by over one-hundred plus family and friends, seven of Winters eldest, 90 and over, were honored at the second Elder Day Celebration, Saturday June 2, at the St. Anthony’s Parish Hall.  Receiving the honors were four women and three men. This special recognition is awarded to those who have attained the age of ninety and over, or will be 90 years of age before December 31.


Love and appreciation marked the event as those present gathered to show these special people how much they mean to them.  With love bouncing off the walls, this was the second event the Winters Elder Day Council has hosted that has brought such joy to the community.  Wally Pearce, Woody Fridae and Don Saylor, local businessmen and members of the Elder Day Council provided the leadership to bring this about.  


With 661 years of collective experiences, the stories these elders told provided glimpses of history through the 20th century and the first 18 years of the 21st.  From birth through early childhood, on into young and then mature adulthood, then family life – marriage, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – the achievements, wartime experiences,  joys and heartaches were revealed. An awesome tapestry of memories, as it were, tugging at the heartstrings. It was a truly memorable, joy-filled event captured for posterity.

The Express will be sharing these elders’ stories in a continuing series.

Highlights from Some of the Stories


John Barbee was born September 13, 1920 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  There were three siblings – a brother and two sisters – growing up in rural Colorado where he loved to fish and hunt with his father.  “Some of my fondest memories are of being with my father and listening to him talk about life. Every night he would read books to us. We had no electricity so my father would light up a lantern as we crowded around him.  My father was a talented blacksmith and taught me how to use tools. He was a very smart man. I attribute my success in life as a person and the strong values I hold, to the influence of my father. My mother passed away when I was very young, my father died when I was in my mid-teens.”

After his high school graduation, John entered the military in 1939.  Because he was already a pilot, he quickly progressed to becoming a B-17 pilot.  Some of his first training in Texas was flying the P-39 (a forerunner to the P-40), and the B-18.  He flew B-17s in the South Pacific, receiving significant awards including the Purple Heart and the Silver Star because of his World War II (WWII) experiences.   

After the War, John worked at several high level occupations with dignity and honor, some agriculture related.  Eventually, his experience landed him a prestigious, over-three-decade career in the banking industry, moving through the ranks to retire as president of a bank in Southern California.

He and his wife were married for sixty-eight years before she recently passed away.  They began residency in Winters in 1990 on their fifty-plus acre ranch. He is a Real Estate Broker and an accomplished Building Contractor.

When asked what advice he would give to a young person today, John answered, “Love, trust, and do no harm.  Believe in yourself.”


Evelyne David  was born on June 14, 1919 in Freedom, Nebraska.  She has three children – one son and two girls.

She learned how to sew on her mother’s Singer Sewing Machine that had pedals (a foot treadle by which you activated the mechanism).  She grew up on a farm and in her teens helped with the farming and harvesting. Following high school graduation she attended a one-year business school to learn business skills.  During the early part of WWII, she began working at a plant where B-24s were being built and developed her skills as a plant electrician, assembling bombsites for the B-24s.

If a young person were to ask her what to do with their life, she would tell them “Get a good education.”  When asked how she wants to be remembered, Evelyne stated, “Being helpful.” Along with her daughter, she moved to Winters from Oregon in 2016.  


Mary Jean Vaughan  was born January 11, 1921, in Stockton,  growing up in a family of fourteen children.  Her family emigrated here from Spain. She loved hearing her grandmother tell about the long and tiresome boat trip and the family settling in California’s North Bay area. The family always called her grandmother “Little Grandma.”  “Although she was slight in stature, her love of family and life was enormous. I consider that ‘Little Grandma’ was the anchor of wisdom, morals, and love in my life.” She relates that many from her immediate family are rooted in the fabric of Winters.  “Some of my ancestors settled just off Putah Creek Road in the late 1800s, although I grew up in San Francisco.” She recalls skating down the long, sloping San Francisco streets. As a young girl she loved to play baseball as an outfielder. That love of the game continues to this day and she goes to as many games as possible.  Her family moved to Winters, but she stayed in San Francisco. “My father was not a Chef, yet he gained the reputation as being a great cook at the Putah Creek Café many years ago. I would often come here to visit the family and it was then that I fell in love with Winters and ultimately made it my home.”

In 1947, Mary Jean married Angus Vaughan and they raised a family of four children.  Her husband was in the Navy during and after WWII and also during the Vietnam era.

When she came to Winters, she shared her love of theater with the local drama group,  “At that time it wasn’t known as the Winters Theater Company. It was, however, a group of locals and we all loved to act, so collectively we would put on local plays.  That all happened before Howard Hupe jointed us.” She took her love of acting to Solano College and received a degree in Theater Arts at the “young age of eighty!”

Mary Jean’s life and history is a legend with its wonderful stories about her journey from Stockton to San Francisco to Winters.  Her advice to young people is
“Maintain faith in God and always be kind.”  


Ben Shimomura’s parents emigrated from Japan.  He was born December 4, 1920, in Sacramento and has one younger sister.  The family moved to Winters where he grew up on the land that is known as “the horseshoe,” and where his father worked on a farm.  He attended Apricot School and Winters High School, but was unable to graduate when they were interned during WWII. “This was the most difficult thing in my life,” he explains with emotion.  

He married in 1948 and he and his wife, Lois, raised a family of four children.  The family grew to seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Ben is very proud of his family.  “I really enjoy spending time with them.”

Ben was able to buy the ranch he worked on where they grew apricots and almonds.  “This was my first big purchase and the most influential and successful thing in my life,” he says. His wife of seventy years passed away in 2015.

Asked  what is the hardest thing about getting old, he smilingly responded, “Just getting around!” which was a sentiment voiced by many of the honorees..


Brigita Alarcon was born on October 8, 1928, in Ciudad Gonzalez/Guanajuato en Mexico  during the Mexican Revolution — a very difficult and brutal time in the country’s history, made even harder when her father died when she was six and her mother and six children had to move in with two half-brothers.  “We took a train to get there but our Mom didn’t have enough money to pay the fare, so I remember my little brother and I had to hide under the seat when the conductor came through to collect the tickets.” Brigita grew up in a one-room adobe house with six others, on a ranch that had a small school, a few other houses in government rentals for agricultural workers and their families.  “But to our Mother, Winters was the promised land. As family we often visited the Winters Cemetery which Mother thought was a beautiful park. When she died, we buried her in this beautiful ‘park’.”

Brigita worked in area canneries for thirty-one years and was regarded by others as the champion in her field.  Her first job was harvesting spinach, carrots, radishes and onions. “I love working with vegetables, but also growing plants, herbs and flowers,” she related.  She has gained a reputation for her knowledge of how to use these things for medicinal purposes.

She met her husband when they were children and actually had three weddings, a 1952 civil ceremony in Mexico, another 1953 wedding in Texas, and finally a  1969 church wedding in Winters The happiest and proudest times in her life were when each of her nine children were born – five daughters and four sons. Today there are twenty-nine grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.  “The saddest time was when one of our sons died. But another really happy time was when we became American citizens in 1995. We built our home in 1970 through the Farmers Home Administration (FHA). Our monthly house payment was $59 a month!”  One of the biggest frustrations of her life is that she never learned to speak English. And if she could have a do-over, it would be to learn the language.

One thing that had a profound effect on the way she regards life was that her Mother instilled in her children the value of faith and family.  Her message to young people is “Love God and save money, appreciate and take care of what you have.” She would like to be remembered as someone who loved deeply and was very affectionate.”


 Jose Diaz was born September 26, 1928 in Aguas Calientes, Mexico in a grass hut.  His earliest memories are of going into the hills to harvest corn and beans.  Raised in an adobe home with a separate room for cooking. The floor was made of woven tules.  Jose recalls his father being gone for long periods of time working in the United States. Jose taught himself how to drive at age 33 and his first car was a Datsun pickup.  

His first girlfriend was a girl he saw in church and she kept looking at him during mass.  Afterwards there was a fiesta and he asked permission from her parents to visit with her. Once he had their permission, their dates consisted of having to communicate from opposite sides of a wall.  Touching was not allowed. But they did get married and had five daughters, two died in early childhood, and his wife, died after ten years.

A second marriage produced three daughters and two sons.  One son and one daughter from this marriage died when they were very young as well.  

His parents left him a piece of property and on it he built a home .  

His first job was working in the fields planting corn as a child.  His work experience included doing construction building houses. He came to the United States in 2000.  

Gardening – growing green thing – is something Jose loves to do; he also enjoys baseball and soccer.  Watching his grandchildren play sports is very enjoyable. “The best thing about growing older is having your family nearby.  I spend a lot of time praying at Church.” Happy times were watching his children get married; the hardest times were losing his wives in death.  His advice to young people? “Be honorable. Don’t drink or smoke. Appreciate good advice.” What would he like his children and grandchildren to remember about him?  “That I was encouraging, a good person, a hard worker, loved sports, religion, and wants these things to be important to them.”


Helen K. Hosier   Helen was born in Hull, Iowa, on January 26, 1928 into a mourning family – her father had died five months before her birth.  Awaiting her arrival was her mother, a ten-year-old brother, and a five-year-old sister. Growing up fatherless during the Great Depression was hard for the little family, but her Mother was a resilient young, and godly Dutch woman with strong faith and reliance on God and the Bible.    From her, Helen learned a wealth of things and developed a strong work ethic, an understanding of how God would teach her if she loved Him, prayed and trusted Him for guidance, obeyed His precepts, and was kind, forgiving, and showed understanding, love and respect to others.


Soon after graduation from Sibley, Iowa high school, Helen was offered a position with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) in Washington, D.C.  She made the cross country trip alone at the age of seventeen. She had never been further away from home than to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, sixty-five miles away! Then, some time later, she was asked to make another cross-country trip to Los Angeles, California, to work with her sister-in-law’s brother (with whom she worked in Washington).  Together they helped found the California Fertilizer Association (CFA), These were challenging opportunities, but she seized them and excelled. She moved her Mother from Iowa and they established their home in Bellflower in southern California. She met her soon-to-be husband and married in 1947. She had a strong love for books – reading them and haunting a favorite bookstore in Los Angeles on her lunch break while working.  A dream began to develop in her heart: Wouldn’t it be great to own such a bookstore!   Early in their marriage, Helen and her husband saw that dream become a reality and eventually they owned two such bookstores.  But she was also a writer at heart, and soon, through a series of remarkable events, she was not only selling books, she was writing them and today has over sixty-books in print, hundreds of magazine articles, and even writes the column “Over a Cup of Coffee” for The Winters Express.  

In 1995, Helen’s husband died, and she opened Beautiful Finds, the antique, book, and gift boutique on Railroad Avenue in Winters, doing alone what she and her husband had planned doing together in their retirement years.  Five years later, heart bypass surgery saw her having to close her store, She moved with her son, Kraig, to a Dallas, Texas suburb for twelve years.

In 2012  they returned to Winters where she continues to write and spend time with friends and family.  They, along with a businessman friend, lovingly tend and care for seven outdoor cats that have adopted them!  “They are God’s little creatures and need love and care. We can give that. There’s two whites, Latte I and II, two black and white Tuxedos, one little Calico stray obviously abandoned by its mothet, one black named Talker (he talks a lot), and Skitty, the white and tan Calico whose mother was killed and she was left an orphan,  she’s always been skittish, yet she’s been here for six years, so we feed her too. Sometimes Cappuccino shows up and is always welcomed back. They are the little Coffee Club Cats. There’s also Joy, our indoor car, but that’s another story for the”Over a Cup of Coffee” column.

What advice would I give to a young person?  ‘Trust yourself to the God who made you for He will never fail you.”  And also ‘Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God, in Christ, has forgiven you.’  Yes, biblical wisdom, good for everyone, at any age, anytime.”

Helen has three children – one Winters daughter, one daughter in Canada,  one deceased son, and one Winters son. There are seven grandchildren, three deceased; and ten great-grands.  She’s lived in Iowa, Washington, D.C.., both northern and southern California, Nashville, Tennessee, South Bend, Indiana, and Houston, Fort Worth, and Flower Mound (a Dallas suburb), Texas.  The writing and speaking have taken her to Europe, Monaco, Barcelona, Spain, Mexico, the island of BonAire, and Holland.


The awardees were presented Certificates of Recognition from the Yolo County  Board of Supervisors, the City of Winters, the California State Legislator, and the state Congress.  These beautiful framed gifts were gratefully received by each Elder honored. A rose for each, and a beautiful orchid added to the festivities.  Topping off the afternoon guests enjoyed Strawberry Cheesecake as they mingled, danced, and exchanged loving greetings.


Photo ops with the photographers  calling out “Hi Grampa, Hi Grandma, Mom, Mama, Mother,” and we all responded.  The words fit. That’s who we were and are – all ninety-plus years of us. What a wonderful day it was!  Thanks to everyone who made it so special and memorable.


Note for the photo showing elders celebrated last year


Joining this year’s elder celebration were last   year’s honorees: Bobbie Greenwood, Mary Ralston, Marilyn Joens, Harold Haywood, Gayle Anderson, Renie Kennedy, Gilberto Alarcon, and Mary Hemenway.  

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