We’re here today to remember and honor the life of Jose Herrera, better known to me, my brothers, and cousins as “Grandpa Joe”, I am honored to share our memories and stories of him with all of you today.
My Grandpa Joe was born December 8, 1930, in El Rito, New Mexico, he lived in El Rito until he enlisted in the Army when he was only 17 years old (actually 16, but he told them he was 17 so he could enlist). He served in the Korean War and received an honorable discharge in 1950. He Married my Grandma Mae on June 4, 1954 and they remained in love and going strong until his final days. My Grandpa worked as a Carpenter until he retired from the Denver Federal Center. In his later years he enjoyed watching football, and spending time with family. He also enjoyed being home doing yard work. He was a perfectionist and always made sure that his yard was impeccable.
When I think of the word strong, I think of Grandpa Joe, he was a hard-working family man. He was proud, independent, and feisty, but most of all he had the best heart. Grandpa Joe was family oriented, and he loved all of his children and grandchildren equally.
Grandpa Joe was also very strong willed, he did things his way, even at the end of his life. He made sure to let everyone know how things were gonna go; there was no debating it, and he was not going to change his mind… He always did things his way.
Grandpa Joe was a loving and devoted husband to my Grandma Mae, they were married for 66 years and I can’t really remember a time where I didn’t see one without the other. When Grandpa was still healthy enough to move around with ease, they would even answer the door together to welcome company. Grandpa made sure that Grandma was happy, and their family was taken care of. One of his favorite sayings was “If you drive a fancy car but you live in a shack, then your priorities are all messed up”. He believed that stability within his home and family were the one of the most important accomplishments one could attain. But it was never an individual accomplishment, he and Grandma both worked hard, no matter what issue they may have faced, they made the most of their life together and managed to do so with style, and class.
Grandpa Joe was also a loving father, he and my Grandma had 5 kids together, 4 daughters, and a son, he loved and cherished them all, but he shared a very special bond with his son, my Uncle Phil. They were best friends, 2 peas in a pod, where my Grandpa was, so was my Uncle Phil. Sometimes they would spend the day out together going to the store, running errands, or just cruising around to pass the time. When anyone would go to visit Grandma and Grandpa, Grandpa and Uncle Phil would be sitting at the kitchen table together drinking a beer, or they would be in the front room watching Denver Broncos football… They were always together.
My Grandpa will be remembered by many people, he was outgoing and friendly, and made an impression on everyone he met. Our family will miss the life we shared with him, his smile, his laugh, his jokes, but most of all we will miss the love he showed all of us.
The thing I will remember most about Grandpa was that we grew up listening to him say “Honscot”. Ask any of us grandchildren and we know exactly what that’s all about. From the time that I can remember I heard “Hoopscot”, most of my cousins heard “Honscot”. One by one as each of us grandchildren got a little older and a little more curious, we would ask, “Why does Grandpa always say “Honscot”? It never failed, our parents would look at each other and start to laugh and then tell us what he was really saying. My Grandpa was known for saying “Honest to God” in any conversation he was having; sometimes several times in a conversation. But he would say it so fast that all we heard as kids was “Honscot”, we never would’ve guessed he was saying “Honest to God”. We spent years as children trying to decode that word, years wondering what it meant… That’s probably the single most favorite memory I have of him, that all of us grandchildren have of him. To this day, we all still say “Honscot” and laugh about it.
I know that if friends and family got together to reminisce about Grandpa Joe, we could talk and laugh for days. I’m sure we all have a ton of memories with him.
Grandpa called me “Pigtails” as I was growing up, my favorite memory was him dancing next to the kitchen table if he liked a song that came on the radio. As I got older, I remember Grandpa would always let me know when he felt like it had been too long in between visits because he would say “Who’s this beautiful girl? She looks like my granddaughter, but I don’t know because I haven’t seen her for a long time”.
Tina (daughter) remembers hearing stories of how Grandpa loved to dress up and dance, and how Aunt Ermie would iron his clothes and help him get ready to go out dancing. He loved old classic country, and Northern New Mexico music.
Phyllis & Levie (daughter and son-in-law) remember Grandpa giving my youngest brother Leon the nickname of “Nalgitas”, they said their favorite memory is going to kindergarten parent teacher night and being told that my brother had called his teacher “Nalgitas”.
Christina (granddaughter) remembers when she got her first purple bike from Grandma and Grandpa, she said she remembers feeling like she was the luckiest little girl in the world. She remembers as she got older that Grandpa would always ask her if she was doing ok and if her husband was taking care of her, he would always tell her “he better be”. She says she’ll miss arguing with Grandpa, that was one of her favorite things to do when visiting because Grandpa always argued back before she got a smile out of him. She also remembers how he would always point to his cheek and say “kiss me right here on my cheek” when they were saying goodbye to each other.
Lola (granddaughter) remembers Grandpa calling her Lolita, and how he loved all of his grandkids and never treated any of us differently from one and other. She remembers grandpa walking into his house after work carrying his little metal lunchbox, she says tan dickies work pants and white t-shirts will always remind her of Grandpa Joe.
Estevan (grandson) remembers how Grandpa would act out his boxing days or do impersonations of being a karate guy. He also remembers talking to Grandpa and Grandpa would suddenly switch up and start speaking in Native or Japanese (which he learned when he served in the military).
Jacob (great grandson) remembers Grandpa always telling him he was going to take him to pick up blondies, Jacob says “well who’s gonna take me to look for blondies now”.
Elena (great granddaughter) says her favorite memory will be fighting with Grandpa over who gets the Debbie Cherry Pies.
Mireya (great granddaughter) will always remember how Grandpa would laugh after he called her Derricka instead of by her name.
Derricka (grand daughter-in-law) says her favorite memory of Grandpa is how he would bless her with the sign of the cross on the forehead when saying goodbye.
Athena (great granddaughter) says her favorite memory of Grandpa was him telling her she was never allowed to have a boyfriend because she didn’t need to put up with men; and how he always made sure to tell her and her sisters that they were beautiful.
Alicia (great granddaughter) says that her favorite memory of Grandpa is when she would go to visit, and Grandpa would send her and her sister to the fridge to get a beer for him and Uncle Phil. She says she will always remember that Grandpa Joe always got ready for the day and always made sure his hair was combed and he looked presentable.
Aliyah (great granddaughter) remembers her favorite thing to say when talking to Grandpa when she was little was “It’s complicated Grandpa”, so Grandpa started calling her “My little it’s complicated” as a nickname. She says her favorite memory is going to visit Grandpa and spending the day inside with him talking and eating cereal and candy from the candy dish.
Joey (grandson) remembers how close he and Grandpa became after he joined the Marine Corp., they had an instant bond and shared stories of their tours of duty and the rivalry of the Marines and the Army. He says grandpa could still hit pretty hard as an older guy, he would give him a couple of one, two punches to show that his boxing skills were still there. His favorite memory is when he and James (his other grandson who was also a Marine) went to visit Grandpa, he gave them both a few arm punches and told them “I’ll still take both of you”. Joey says the bond they shared and memory of service to his country brought out the youth in Grandpa. The stories Grandpa told never got old and the excitement he showed sharing those memories will always be with him.
I hope that when people remember my Grandpa, they remember the laughs and the good times with him. I know he wouldn’t want us to be sad, he would want us to focus on the memories we shared with him and the happiness he brought into our lives, and I think we should all do exactly what he would want… after all, he did like things done his way.