Juanita R. Mendoza ’76, M.A. ’79 was born in Melvin, Texas, to Epifania Franco and Simon Reyes, affectionately known as “Mamapana” and “Papamon.” At age 6, she moved with her parents to Mexico, their home country, and was raised in the area of Torreón, Coahuila. She always took great pride in saying how much her parents instilled in her a strong value for education. To get to elementary school growing up on a ranch in Reforma, she would ride for a mile through a cornfield on a horse with no saddle accompanied by a small dog tied to the back for protection. She even went to live with extended family to attend high school in Gomez Palacio, Durango, Mexico and would come home by train to visit her parents and siblings on the weekends. She has been a resident of San Jose, California for 70 years. Returning to the U.S., she and her family moved to the Salsipuedes neighborhood of East San Jose. She said it was named “get out if you can” due to the poverty and the unpaved roads that would turn to mud when it rained. In her early 20s, she met and married Emilio Aguiniga Mendoza. They met at a dance in downtown San Jose. Emilio and her father went with Cesar Chavez to San Francisco to petition for paved streets and lights for the neighborhood. She would laugh that she “got out” of the neighborhood wearing a white dress when she married Emilio. They were married at Five Wounds Catholic Church in a wedding that was so stunning that it was written about in detail in the newspaper with a beautiful photograph highlighting the bride in her wedding dress. During their 20-year marriage, they had six children, all of whom went to Catholic schools. They owned an elegant Mexican restaurant named El Sol on Willow Street in Willow Glen. Juanita was a devoted housewife and an unconditionally loving mother. She was in her 40s when they divorced. Juanita then went back to school, determined to continue her education to pursue a professional career path in order to provide for herself and her children. She completed her American high school diploma in eight months and in the ’70s participated in the Women’s Re-entry Education Program at West Valley Community College. Studying until 4 a.m. while on her own raising her four children who were still at home, she graduated with her A.A. degree and earned a scholarship to SCU. There she received her B.A. in psychology and her M.A. in marriage, family and child counseling. Juanita worked for 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist for Gardner Health Services at Centro de Bienestar, a community mental health clinic serving predominantly Latino/a families. She loved her career and happily worked until she was 80 years old. For her years of dedication and service to the Latino/a community, she was honored with the “Portrait of Success” award. Following in her footsteps, all of her children went to college. A lifelong learner, at age 90 she decided that she wanted to learn to play the guitar, and attended lessons at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. Juanita was a dedicated Catholic and a 60-year parishioner of St. Leo the Great Church. She especially loved pan dulce (sweet bread) and cafecito y plática (coffee and small talk) after the Spanish Mass. Her deep faith, overall healthy lifestyle, strong connection with nature, love of the arts, and dedication to and by her family and friends helped her come back strong from many health challenges over the years. She survived hip replacements, a brain aneurysm, strokes, kidney disease, and cancer. But she never let these things define her. She was more concerned with living her best life rather than focusing on these challenges. She was knowledgeable in traditional medicines, loved teas, and balanced those practices with Western medicine. Juanita was a wonderful storyteller and had an amazing photographic and long-term memory. She had a great love for animals, and her favorite pet growing up was a mischievous domesticated raccoon named Monito. More recently her pets included two loving dogs, Dino and Lucky, and two songbirds, Patito and Bonito. She died on Aug. 26, 2019. Juanita is survived by her six devoted children: Emilio Mendoza Jr., Christian Mendoza, Michael Mendoza, Elizabeth Mendoza-Weitzman (Jack), John Mendoza, and Mary Mendoza. She was a devoted grandmother and cherished her grandchildren Gabriel Weitzman (Tiffany, granddaughter-in-law), Anna Weitzman, Mattie Walker-Mendoza and Salvador Walker-Mendoza, as well as one great-grandchild, Sophia Grace Weitzman. She was the eldest of eight children and was preceded in death by her siblings: Linda Ramirez, David Reyes, Alicia Rojas, Raul Reyes, Alma Alvarez, Angie Guerrero, and Irma Riley. Her beauty, intelligence, strength, laughter, and faith will be missed by all who knew her—and most especially she will be missed for the twinkle in her eyes.

28 Jan 2020