Mothers and daughters. Theirs can be deeply loving relationships, or stressful ones. But all leave lasting imprints on daughters. In advance of Mother’s Day, Bakersfield Life asked some local daughters for memories of their mothers and how they impacted their lives.
BEATRIS ESPERICUETA SANDERS
Born in 1957 in Weslaco, a town in the southern tip of Texas, Frances Espericueta was one of nine children. Her parents were immigrants and she grew up “happily with her siblings and family working in the fields, following the change of harvest throughout the United States,” said her daughter, Beatris Espericueta Sanders.
While working manual labor, clipping grapes from the vine, Frances met her now husband of 47 years, who was the second oldest of 12 children. The couple married, had five children, and started their own journey of becoming stewards of the land, farming their own crops and raising a family.
“My mother instilled in me the value and authenticity of her upbringing; her work ethic and selfless outlook on life,” Beatris said. “To this day, she continues to work hard beside my father to provide support and love for her children and grandchildren.
“She often reflects on her humble beginnings, in awe of God’s blessings throughout her life, so thankful for every single day,” Beatris said. “She stays faithful to her Creator and is an example to all who know her of what is still good in this world.”
Beatris Espericueta Sanders is president of Adventist Health Bakersfield’s Philanthropy Foundation.
Sheila Woods Clemmer was born in 1936 in London, England. As a child, she survived the London Blitz, during World War II. Her father was in the Royal Navy and often away during the war.
“A young war bride, she married my father, an American pilot, in England. She and her family immigrated to the U.S.,” recalled her daughter, Lynnette Zelezny. “I am the first born in my family of three siblings.
“While raising children, my mother, a nontraditional college student, earned her community college degree and then a bachelor and master’s degree from the University of Texas. She became a rehabilitation counselor and loved working. She only recently retired.”
She remembers most her mother’s passion for education and extraordinary pride in being an American citizen.
“She modeled strength, the spirit of adventure and the value of life-long learning.”
Dr. Lynnette Zelezny is president of California State University, Bakersfield.
Leatrice Joy Pace was born in 1923 in Wenatchee, Wash., and given a first name that her daughter, Susan Gill, said she always hated. So, she went by Joy. Her father was a big movie fan and named all his daughters after movie stars — Thelma, after Thelma Todd; Norma, after Norma Talmadge; and Leatrice Joy, after Leatrice Joy.
Shortly before Joy’s birth, the family left Kentucky, where they had lived for generations, and moved to Washington. A carpenter and farmer, who also worked in lumber mills, Susan’s grandfather built every home the family lived in, while her grandmother took care of their growing family.
Joy was a tomboy. She was also smart as a whip. She loved English grammar, which she imparted to her daughters. She was the valedictorian of her high school class in 1941.
With the advent of World War II, she dazzled many soldier boys who came to the area. Joy went to business college and became a legal secretary in the county prosecutor’s office. Although offered opportunities to go to law school, she decided to keep earning money as a legal secretary.
She married a man who promised to take her to California. They moved to Sacramento, where she went to work for the state as a secretary. A deejay, her husband eventually took a job in Bakersfield and introduced her to the station’s lawyer, Barney Gill, who hired her.
This was definitely not love at first sight, her daughter recalled. Both were married to other people and Joy did not much like “Mr. Gill,” who she called a terrible boss. He thought she was a fabulous legal secretary.
When their marriages ended, Joy first enjoyed the life of a single woman; however, Barney kept chasing away her suitors. The couple married in 1956 and she became a stepmother to his two children, David and Marilyn.
Barney dabbled in politics, with Joy by his side. In 1971, the couple took over the Office Bar and it became one of the hottest restaurants in downtown. But balancing being a prominent lawyer and great restauranteur was difficult. The restaurant business was fun, but it was short-lived.
Joy continued working as a legal secretary, later designated as a paralegal, for Barney, until he died in 1990. She was one of the most knowledgeable probate people in town.
“Joy was the mother of two children, my sister, Chris, who was born in 1962, and me. She was a wonderful mother and later was a wonderful grandmother to our children,” Susan recalled.
“She loved the law as much as my father did. And she loved my sister and me more than anything in the world — until we had children. She was a fun grandmother, who doted on her grandchildren.
“She taught me to love the English language and to be a stickler for good grammar and punctuation. She and my father were equals and partners in every respect, as my husband and I are, now. By watching her I knew I could have a career and be a good mother, and that was important as one’s career is, being a mother is far more important. She made me believe it is cool to be smart. And, she taught me not to take myself or life too seriously.”
Susan Gill is a Kern County Superior Court Judge. Her mother died in 2003.
Ruby C. Beason was born to Alice and Roy Bates in 1930 and grew up in Texas. At the corner drugstore/soda fountain, she met Robert Beasley, a cowboy, who was in town to compete in a bull riding event, said her daughter, Beth Hoffman. They married and eventually moved to Bakersfield during the oil boom.
Ruby worked at Crocker Bank and after 13 years of marriage, they had their only child, Beth Beasley (Hoffmann). At the young age of 36, Ruby suffered her first massive heart attack. Several surgeries later, she died at age 52.
“The memory that stands out about my mother is her shining smile and bright aura, even though she was gravely ill,” recalled Beth. “She always lit up a room when she walked in and never let her health issues bring her down.
“For much of my life, we had nurses in and out of our home caring for my mother. Lots of doctor appointments and long stays in the hospital. Because of the impact these nurses had in our daily lives, I have found my calling in running an end-of-life institution that strives every day to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I know now that God allowed me to go through such times so that I could take that experience and help others,” said Beth.
Beth A. Hoffmann operates Hoffmann Hospice in Bakersfield. Her mother died in 1982.
Born in Sonora, Mexico in 1933, Irene Urias Menendez immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s. She lived in Los Angeles for a few years, before her family moved to Arvin, where she met and married Ramon Menendez and settled in Lamont.
“Having learned to speak English during her time in Los Angeles made my mom the neighborhood social worker after she married,” recalled her daughter, Magda Menendez. “Neighbors often came with letters that needed translating, or asking her to call someplace on their behalf. Except for casual employment, every so often, she was for the most part a stay-at-home mom, who was very devoted to her faith, home and family.”
Despite having her share of life’s curve balls thrown at her, Magda said her mother was “kind and loved to laugh. She doled out the discipline, but I don’t remember her ever having any type of angry outbursts. She didn’t yell or raise her voice. She loved animals and loved the movie ‘Babe.’”
“My mom never pried and always respected our privacy, as adults, but willingly offered her opinion or thoughts if we asked."
Irene is remembered as a great cook, specializing in Mexican food. But since her husband, Ramon, was Puerto Rican, she also learned to cook great Puerto Rican food. “When she taught us to cook, she stressed cleanliness, saying we had to respect who we were cooking for. Everything from our hands to the food to the cookware we used had to be clean.”
The imprint she left on Magda was her devotion to family, and her caring for and helping people.
“I love preparing the meals she taught me to make for my family to enjoy — and they do! We have a grandson away at school, who will call to give me a heads up of when he’ll be in town and places his order of food to take back. It’s always one of two meals my mom used to prepare.
“My work has always been helping people from marginalized communities. This may stem from those days my mom was a translator and advocate for our neighbors.”
Magda Menendez is the administrator of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation. Her mother died in 1999.
Born in 1914, Marjorie Bell’s mother, Helen Miriam (Brady) Werner, grew up in Ohio and met her husband while attending business school. She spent most of her career as a school secretary.
“She was smart, competent and a very hard worker all her life,” her daughter recalled. “She was also the funniest person I have ever known, especially when telling stories about her childhood in Ohio. She really should have been a writer. Her four- and five-page letters to me in California were filled with colorful stories from the present and past.”
Marjorie said memories of her mother’s brilliant blue eyes and her hands “still cause me to tear-up. Her hands, especially, remind me of the times she tended to me when I was sick in bed and hurting, and all the meals she prepared — often when she had very little food in the house, when my dad was unemployed.”
A comforting presence in her family’s life “most of the time,” Marjorie recalled her mother was a terrific backyard gardener, who read at least two newspapers a day and became politically involved in her retirement.
Marjorie believes her mother’s storytelling and writing likely influenced her to pursue her career as an English teacher and occasional journalist.
“Mom also loved music and made sure I had flute and dance lessons; she herself played the organ by ear,” she said. “Church was an anchor in her life and gave us kids structure and chances to relate to families outside of our own, once we moved away from Ohio cousins, aunts and uncles” to Colorado for work.
“It was also very bold of her to follow our dad to Colorado, leaving her own family behind to hold her marriage together. That is true testimony to her steadfast belief in the importance of marriage and family. I think that I always wanted to make my mother proud of me, and I think I likely did just that.”
Marjorie Bell retired after a long teaching career at Bakersfield High School. Her mother died in 2005.
Born in Chicago in 1921, Pam Stewart’s mother, Joyce Miller Benson, moved to California with her parents and sister as a toddler.
“She loved ballet and was a talented student. It’s a career she wanted to pursue, but at the time, in the 1940s, when she wanted to go on the road with a dance troupe, her parents did not allow it. Proper young ladies didn’t do that sort of thing.
“So, at 28, she finally married, as was expected of women in that day and age, and had two children and became a proper stay-at-home mom. She did not have a happy marriage, but as was the custom at the time, she stayed married for the sake of the children.”
Pam said she remembers sitting on the living room couch and when ballet music would come on the radio, her mother would do a running leap through the dining room and into the living room.
Pam said her mother’s experience indirectly led to her recognition of the importance of women’s rights and education in the lives of young women today.
Pam Stewart retired as the editor of the Kern Valley Sun. Her mother died in 2001.
A native Californian, Whitney Weddell’s mother, Doris Weddell, was born in Santa Margarita in 1933 and grew up in a small town outside of Modesto.
“She was a child of her era, initially believing her role was wife and mother. She married my dad (Willard Weddell) in 1950, and they had four daughters, before moving to Bakersfield in 1969, so he could become Kern’s very first public defender.
“In 1978, they divorced, and she suddenly found herself questioning her place in the world. She was hired as Lamont librarian and she loved it! Books, people, service; it was everything she was. And it was there she discovered a hidden closet of Dust Bowl items donated by locals who’d emigrated to the area in the '30s.
“She became a cheerleader and organizer, to save the three remaining original buildings at the original Weedpatch Migrant Camp, and spent her remaining years passionately researching this end of that journey. She became an internationally-recognized expert in the field. (Ask Ken Burns!)”
What Whitney said she remembers most about her mother was her “mix of class and compassion. She always put others first; you never heard her demand that she be first in line for anything.”
Whitney recalled her mother practiced “traditional etiquette and expected it from others.” Always perfectly dressed, she kept an immaculate house and warmly welcomed friends and family who dropped by. “She was warm and kind, and everyone who knew her said so.”
Whitney said her mother contributed most to her life “by teaching me how to treat others. I must admit I do not always follow her example, but I know how to move in different groups following different social norms because of her.”
“She taught me to value books, music, theater, and to laugh heartily as often as possible. I will never be half the woman she was — please do not look at my house — but I am so very proud to be her child.”
Whitney Weddell is a Kern High School District teacher and community activist. Her mother died in 2011.
Shirley Doris Roberts was born in Thermal, Calif., in 1923. Her family moved to Riverside, where she married Harry Roberts, after his return from World War II.
The couple moved to Delano, where Harry pursued accounting, business and farming opportunities. Shirley worked parttime, raised four daughters and was involved in community activities. She also became a good golfer, her daughter, Sheryl Barbich, recalled.
“Mom had a wonderful voice and a beautiful smile. She enjoyed singing, whether it be at weddings, funerals, or visits to ‘old folks’ homes. She was an excellent cook and enjoyed entertaining, playing cards, dancing with dad, and above all, partying. She also made many beautiful clothes for her daughters.
“Mom believed in me. She believed I could become whatever I wanted to be, and would be successful at whatever I attempted. Whenever I have been asked who were my ‘mentors,’ the answer has always been ‘mom.’
“She was always encouraging and supportive of whatever I was working on. I loved coming home from school each day and telling her all about it. Some of us are very fortunate to have had a mom that could be there when we got home.”
Sheryl Barbich is a Bakersfield business and community consultant. Her mother died in 2008.
Barbara Ballard Kleier was born in 1933 in Bakersfield’s Mercy Hospital. She was the second of three children and her father, Gervais Ballard, was a hospital engineer. He built Mercy’s first incubator and as an underweight newborn, Barbara was the first infant to use it.
Barbara attended local schools -- St. Francis Elementary, Emerson Junior High and Kern County High School. She was the first in her family to attend college – spending her first two years at Kern County Junior College and then transferring to San Jose State University, where she earned a degree in education.
“It was at a dance at the Women's Club in 1953 where mom first laid eyes on Larry Kleier,” recalled her daughter, Katie Kleier. “She knew she'd met the man she would marry. She wasn't concerned that he was engaged to another woman.”
The year after they met, both were officers in the Newman Club and a life-long romance was ignited. They married in 1955, which was followed by 52 years of what Katie said was filled with love, admiration, togetherness, trust, compromise and support for one another as they raised six children.
“Mom was very active in all our lives. A consummate volunteer, she served as parent club president, Blue Bird leader, classroom volunteer and chaired the OLPH parish fundraiser more than once. With dad and numerous other Garces Parent Club members, she worked to keep Garces Memorial High School open in the 1970s.
“When dad decided to run for sheriff of Kern County in 1981, mom was by his side. She was the campaign manager for the first election. Together they traversed the county meeting constituents and raising funds for the campaign. While the days were long, mom loved meeting the people and supporting dad.
“Mom's greatest joy in life has been her family. She is so proud of each of her children, her 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She loves to spend time with them. She will drive or fly to participate in any of their events or sporting activities. Absolutely nothing brings her greater joy.”
Katie said the lessons she learned from her mother include generosity, volunteerism and the ability to find humor in most any life event.
And while aging can be challenging, Katie said her mother takes “each change in stride with her usual optimistic, yet pragmatic style.”
Katie Kleier is a retired teacher and school administrator.
Born in 1922, Maureen Buscher-Dang’s mother, Mary Luverne Stanton Buscher, was a fourth-generation Bakersfield native. She was born and lived for a time in a small house in the oilfields near the Kern River, not far from where Manor Street is today. She attended Kern County Union High School. After graduation, she joined the U.S. Coast Guard, during World War II.
She married in her late 20s, during an era when that age was considered “old-maid territory,” Maureen said, recalling her father “always marveled that whenever we shopped downtown, mom always ran into people she knew.”
Maureen said she remembers most her mother’s lovely singing voice and the way she played the piano.
“She had beautiful auburn hair and a spiffy sense of style. Her cooking was drool-inducing. I still miss certain dishes, like chicken and dumplings, spaghetti sauce that cooked all day, and her pies.
“Summers consisted of canning apricots, making jam and trekking to Beale Library for air conditioning and lots of books. When I was really young, I remember thinking there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do.
“She was accepted into the nursing program at Bakersfield College and became an LVN when I was about 12. I was so proud. Mom was a strong woman who taught me, by example, to never give up.
“Mom first gave me a love and appreciation for singing, music and reading. She also instilled in me a love for cooking. Wrapped around all of that was a love for family and helping others.”
Maureen Buscher-Dang is a Bakersfield marketing consultant. Her mother died in 1994.
SYLVIA THOMSON CATTANI
Born in 1922 in Bakersfield, MaryLou Frick Thomson was the daughter of farmer Lloyd W. Frick and Sylvia Boatwright Frick. She grew up on the family farm with her two brothers, Archie and Fred. She attended Vineland School, Kern County High School and graduated from UC Berkeley in December 1943. After graduation, she and her sorority sister signed up for the WAVES to help the war effort.
“Mom became a control tower operator and served in Maui, until the war was over. She came home and took classes in Los Angeles to be an executive secretary, when she became re-acquainted with my dad, Jack Thomson,” daughter Sylvia Thomson Cattani recalled. Although the couple had been in the same high school class, they never dated. The reconnection was arranged by brother Archie and his wife, as a blind date.
MaryLou and Jack married in December 1946, living first at UC Davis while Jack finished his degree, and then moving to Buttonwillow, where he took over his grandfather’s farm. The couple’s four children were born, while they lived in Buttonwillow.
“In 1956, we moved to my grandparents’ home and my dad also started farming in the Vineland area on my grandfather’s farm,” she said, adding that a decade later, “three cousins came to live with our family because their mother had died. Mom and dad took care of them until they went to college.
In later years, MaryLou and Jack traveled the world and bought a beach house near Carpinteria, where they hosted family and friends. For 70 years, she played bridge with her group of friends, played tennis and loved gardening.
“What a positive, supportive and loving person she was. She was not afraid to be firm and strict with her children and grandchildren, but guided us with love,” Sylvia said. “I always felt very supported by both of my parents and they were always right there helping me when I needed it.
“My mom was an excellent role model for me. She was a strong person with her own ideas. While she supported our dad in his business and community activities, she was the center of our home and had a positive influence on her children.
“Raising three more teenagers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was not easy and she limited her outside activities for the first few years, so that she could be available for them and for us. She later resumed community activities and served on the Vineland school board, the Bakersfield Museum of Art Board and the Kern Community Foundation Board.
“I think she was probably a feminist, before feminism was defined!”
Sylvia Cattani is a Kern County cattle rancher. Her mother died in 2016.