~Carmen Vinaja-Esparza~

I want to thank all of my Guel family for being the best supporting, and loving family anybody can wish for. All of you are great. Love you guys.

~Marisol R. Esparza-Aguayo~

My Abuelo was a Great example to us. He raised 7 wonderful children. One of them, my mother Carmen. A wonderful woman with awesome morals taught by my Abuelos. He taught me that money is not a priority but that the Respect and the Love can make any family survive. As poor as they were in Mexico, my Abuelo found means to survive. He had talent with his hands as a Jeweler and from what my Tio Luis has shared with me, he had to make at least 12 wedding bands a day to provide for his family.

Gold was very expensive but he knew that Wedding Bands were always going to be needed. Here in the US, he worked very hard to provide as well. He’s touched many people with his jewelery. In my younger years, I was able to spend a lot of time with him since my Abuelos babysat me. Always in the garage making his jewelery. I wish now that I would have learned his trade to be able to have it continued. He always picked on me with his jokes but never meant any harm. I always had my comebacks that surprised him. “Aye Muchacha” he would say. We had many laughs together. The love he had for his familia was overflowing. I’m very happy that I was able to spend his final days with him. He knew this was it and just before he stopped talking we were able to pray together. And when my husband showed up, He held his hand out for his and mine. And without saying a word I understood that he was trying to tell my husband to take care of his grand-daughter. These will always be my special memories.

~Joe Guel~

My earliest recollection of my tio was when I was in elementary school. A quiet man with a big smile on his face. I was 15 years old when my tio took me under his wing and taught me how to hold a job as a cook at Stckneys Flamingo Restaurant in Palo Alto, CA. 40 years later I had the honor of visiting Mexico City with him. We stayed at the Majestic Hotel located on the main plaza across from the government palace and near the Cathedral, which were built on the ancient Aztec city ruins. A very memorable trip. One night we walked from the hotel to the Plaza De Mariachi. I remember that we could hardly keep up with his quick pace, even though he was 85 years old at the time. Most recently, we visited with my tio in the hospital and he had the same quiet mild manner and the same big smile I remembered as a kid. Although he was in pain and discomfort, he laughed and joked, and quietly shared with me that if it was his time to go, he was ready to pass on. For me, my tio was an excellent example of how to live and how to die. I never saw him complain about the cards life dealt to him; he just made the most of it and did it with a smile on his face. We can only hope to live as long as he did and with the same joy, respect, and love for life itself.

~Sheril Vinaja~

My favorite memory was when I was about 12 or so. My parents were out of town and I was staying with my Abuelos. I spent one entire day watching my Abuelo work in the garage and following him everywhere. I was fascinated to see him working with gold. He said to me: “I have something very special for you.” He opened a safe and took out a beautiful gold medallion. Before he placed it around my neck, he told me about the virgin on the back. I felt so blessed to have been given such a treasure. That day we went downtown to several pawn shops and jewelry stores. In some of the stores we went in the back where he spoke with other jewelers and looked at precious stones. As we walked the streets that day he told me how a gentleman should always walk on the street side and the lady on the inside of the sidewalk. My Abuelo was a wealth of knowledge about things like this. I loved to sit next to him because he would tell the best stories. My favorite was the one about a man who prevents an attack on his village by telling some conquistadors that his army is so rich they use a different spoon for every bite of food they eat. The conquistadors assume he is talking about silver spoons and thinking they must have a very strong army they retreat. But of course the poor Mexican soldier is referring to tortillas. Thank you for inspiring our family with your humor, kindness, and faith in God. I love you Abuelo. You will be missed very much.

~Angel “Gela” Moncallo~

I’ll always remember my Tio with a smile on his face. He was always in a good mood when ever I saw him or talked to him. He always welcomed me with a secure warm hug and he always had something nice to say to me. I can still remember the sound of his laugh. Funny, I was just thinking to myself how I always called him “Tio,” never Uncle. and he always called me by my name in Spanish, never in English, even though we never, ever spoke Spanish to one another. He was a Great Tio, and being the oldest Tio of our Family he set a perfect example of what a Tio should be For my other Tio’s to follow ….and they did. He raised a beautiful Family, my heart goes Out to my Tia Ana and all of you Vinajas, Love you all!

~Luis Guel~

I met Filio when I was ten years old in 1940. He was a perfect gentleman. My older brother would chase him and throw rocks at him when he was dating our sister Ana, but Leonard and I loved him right from the beginning. He used to date my sister in an old way – by dating her in front of our house. When my mother found out he was dating my sister, she was so mad that she created a scene. He said to her: “well, I’m in love with your daughter and I want to see her.” Still angry, my mother said, “well she has a home and I will give you permission to visit her in my house instead of in the street.” He respected and obeyed my mother’s request. I was only 10 years old and Larry was about 5.

Larry was always a very inquisitive child that always embarrassed him, even when he already had permission to visit Ana in our home. One day my mother was cooking homemade corn tortillas and she offered him fresh frijoles de la olla with fresh chile sauce, which he just loved. Larry made us laugh because at the beginning Filio would say, ”no, no, no – I already ate; I don’t want any.” She would tell him to just try them because he would like them. As Larry was standing there watching him, he would say “see, he didn’t want any and he’s already eaten 4 or 5 tortillas!” This embarrassed Filio a lot and we all just laughed. Little by little, he learned that he just had to accept us as his future family.

I remember that he was kind of a lonely, single man because even though his father had many children, he didn’t live with them because his parents separated at an early age. He missed his family love and he found that in our home. Since then, he was fully accepted and we were very happy when they got married. I don’t remember ever having an argument or getting mad at him. He was always a big brother to me. He was pleasant, generous, kind, and we followed his advice as we grew up with him.

Later, we lived with his family while they were in Mexico for a while before we came back to the United States. We were delighted when he came back to live in the same town with us in Menlo Park, California. We were again together as a happy family. We loved his family in Mexico as well as his family here in the United States.

We went through hard times over the years as we had to work hard to support our families, but we did it with love and always with a smile as we struggled to work over time or part time or whatever it took to support our families. I don’t remember ever getting mad at him. He was always so kind. I will always love him, respect him, and will remember him for the rest of my life.

~ Elenita Vinaja Vasquez ~

I have so many things to remember my abuelo for. He was one of a kind, and I loved him with all my heart. He would always make me laugh. He also had a way of making me feel so special. He loved his family, and that was always very important to him. He would always ask me when I was going to have more children. I would tell him that two was enough. For my abuelo it wasn’t enough. He said, “you need more children.” I asked him why. His response was, “You have Monday and Tuesday dinner for you, but who will help you when you’re old on the other days of the week?”

My abuelo was very talented. He made beautiful jewelry. I feel so blessed to have those to wear and show off. Thank you Abuelo!!!

Thank you for the memories, your sense of humor, the love you showed to us (family is important). Abuelo, you will be missed so much!!! In all of the siblings (Tio & Tias) I see you in them…You will always be in our hearts.

Thank you Guel Familia for setting this up and letting us share our stories, thanks for all the support, we love you!

~ Teresa Vinaja (Chicago) ~

Yo siempre recordare a mi tio Filio como una persona con un gran corazon. Desde el momento en que lo conoci (fue en 1998) y nos pusimos a conversar, me hizo sentir como si lo hubiera conocido toda mi vida. Me brindo su confianza y empezamos ha comunicarnos atraves de cartas, en un momento dificl de mi vida me guio con sus consejos y nunca lo olvidare. Recuerdo que le gustaba contar chistes y nos hacia reir a mi hijo Alberto y a mi. Cuando pienso en mi tio Filio, tengo una imagen de el sonriendo.

~ Sean Vinaja ~

When I was a kid, my brother Jason and I used to spend about 8 weeks of the summer with my father Juan (Che), and we would stay with Abuelo and Abuela when he had to work. Even though I was not known as the good son because I was always being a brat, Abuelo and Abuela were still patient with me.

One time, I climbed onto the roof and shot pebbles with a toy slingshot at the kids who lived in the house across Monroe Street. When the parents complained, Abuelo said he would take care of it. I thought for sure I was really going to get it after they left; but Abuelo said, “Can you really shoot rocks that far?” I nodded, and he said, “That’s good, Mijo; that’s very good. But not at the children, ok?” And that was it–I don’t think he even mentioned it to my dad.

So I didn’t do that anymore because I didn’t want my nice Abuelo to be disappointed in me, so I tried to be a good boy for him–for the rest of that summer, at least. Besides, without any targets, shooting pebbles wasn’t as much fun!

~ Bobby Guel ~

Each time I visited the Santa Clara area… I would always stop to visit Aunt Ana and Tio Panfilo. I would enjoy hearing his stories of the good ol’ days when he was a young man and how times have changed since then.

I remember Tio Panfilo making jewelry for my Dad. A simple gold cross of Jesus Christ just hanging there without the cross. My Dad Juan had Tio Panfilo insert diamonds around his head and at the hands and feet. My Tio Machi in Chicago loved my Dad’s cross and wanted Tio Panfilo to make one for himself. He told his wife (my Aunt Connie) to give me some of her gold necklaces and bracelets so Tio Panfilo could melt them down.

One year, my Dad, Juan, and I came to California for a family reunion and we went to visit Tia Ana and Tio Panfilio. I brought gold with me from my Aunt Connie to be melted down. There was my Tio Pablo, Tio Panfilo, my Dad Juan and myself in Tio Panfilo’s garage. He was ready to make another cross. My Tio Panfilo said to me…..please give me the gold…I need to check it, before I start to melt it down.

I had a bag full of gold items from my Aunt Connie…..each necklace from the bag was tested with a chemical solution. And each necklace he tested was fake gold or only gold plated. Tio Pafilo was laughing harder and harder as he pulled out a piece of gold jewelry and found it to be fake. You should have seen the look my Tio Machi gave my Aunt Connie when I returned with no cross and a bag full of gold plated jewelry.

Both my Tio Panfilo and Tio Machi have since passed away. But I’ll always remember Tio Panfilo’s laughing getting louder and louder as he tested each piece of jewelry and then the look of disappointment on my Uncle Machi’s face when he discovered that his gold was fake.

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