Joe Diaz - March 30, 1913 - October 4, 2008
Joe Diaz, long-time Hermosa Beach resident, passed away on Saturday, October 4, 2008 at the age of 95. Joe was born and raised in Los Angeles; lived in Gardena with his bride, Marie, until 1953 when he, his wife and two children, Rosalie and Martha settled in Hermosa Beach.
His humble beginnings in Watts, California were the start of the life of a man with a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit. As a teenager he opened his first business by renting wall space at a local gas station to start his own car wash. The owner was so impressed with him that he eventually had him manage not one but two of his stations in Watts and Wilmington. Joe then served his Country in the Navy during World War II on the SS Hogatt Bay. During this time, his ship was hit by a torpedo, and his good friend and shipmate lost his life. This loss set in motion his love of life and gift of compassion to his fellow man. During his deployment, his daughter Rosalie was born; and, he did not get to meet her until she was 6 months old. Her sister Martha followed three years later. After the war, Joe began a career with Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, CA as a machinist; one task of which was to make the components that went into the Apollo spacecraft for the space program.
After retiring from Hughes in 1978, he became more active in the community that he loved so much, Hermosa Beach. His contributions to the community were many. He was a member of the Hermosa Beach Sister City Association, of which he was the brainchild behind the Student Exchange Program with Hermosa's Sister City, Loreto, Baja California. The idea for the program was two fold: while on a trip to the interior of Mexico with his wife and granddaughter, Monica in 1973, he listened to his granddaughter learn how to speak Spanish while reading from the back of the AAA handbook, while at the same time play with children without speaking the language. It was then that he had an idea for a cultural student exchange between the two cities; an idea that he brought back to the committee. With an offer letter from the Sister City Association, he rode his motorcycle along with a larger group, and made an introduction and an offer from Hermosa Beach to the Mayor, Felix Ojeda. It was there the idea for a cultural student exchange was borne; a program that over 35 years has benefited so many children to have a better understanding of culture and friendship across the land.
His children Rosalie and Martha, along with his grandchildren Monica and John, and great-grandchildren Leina, Sabrina and John-John have all attended and graduated from the Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach school system.
Along with Sister City, Joe was Hermosa Beach's "Man of the Year", a member of the Toastmasters; and, one of the most important organizations, the Hermosa Beach Kiwanis Club, of which he was a Past President.
His dedication to the community and the organizations that he was involved in inspired his wife and family to be active in the community, as well. His daughter Rosalie and her husband Bruce Schjeldahl are active members of Hope Chapel; his daughter Martha is an animal activist and advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, participating in many of the beach community's charitable organizations; his granddaughter Monica is Assistant General Manager for Manhattan Village Shopping Center; his grandson John is working on large telecommunication installation projects throughout the Country.
Without his wife Marie, there is no Joe Diaz. Partners throughout their lives, she is an active member of the Women's Club and Assistant General Manager for the Hermosa Beach Farmer's Market.
He was a man of great vision who was admired and respected by all who knew him, both in this country and in Mexico.
Joe passed peacefully on October 4th, with his family by his side, one day after celebrating his 66th wedding anniversary with his wonderful wife Marie; speaking directly about her, their lives and their love as he drifted into the arms of the Lord.
His family and friends celebrate the life of this extraordinary man, as well as mourning the loss to everyone who knew him, and the community the benefited greatly from him, and his contributions to it and society as whole.
Funeral arrangements are as follows: Viewing will be from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, October 13th at Rice Mortuary, 5310 Torrance Blvd., Torrance California; Memorial Service at 11:00 a.m., October 14th at Rice Mortuary; Cryptside service immediately following at Pacific Crest Cemetery, 182nd Street and Inglewood Boulevard in Redondo Beach. Reception will follow at the Hermosa Beach Kiwanis Club, located at 2515 Valley Drive, Hermosa Beach.
He is survived by his wife Marie, daughter Rosalie Schjeldahl and her husband Bruce Schjeldahl; daughter Martha Diaz; granddaughter Monica Frey and her husband Rick Frey; grandson John Nelson and three great-grandchildren, Leina, Sabrina and John Nelson; brothers Alfred, Theodore, Robert Diaz and sister Rose Gradillas.
In lieu of flowers, the family request that donations be made to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Building Fund - 320 Massey Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.