Thursday, August 3, 2017

Remembering Maria (Marie) A. Ybarra (1923-2017)

Maria (Marie) A. Ybarra, who lived in Boyle Heights for 86 years, passed away on July 7, a few weeks shy of her 94th birthday, at her home in her beloved community. She was born Maria A. Najera on July 30, 1923 in El Paso, Texas to Simon and Antonia Najera, immigrants from Chihuahua, Mexico, and her early childhood years were spent in Prescott, Arizona. Her father was a engineer/conductor with the Atchison,Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Her grandfather, Patricio “Pat” Najera, also worked for the railroad for many years. Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1931 and settled in Boyle Heights. Marie attended Breed Street School, Hollenbeck Junior High School and graduated from Roosevelt High School in the summer of 1942. While at Roosevelt, she won the B’nai B’rith Award, presented by the Jewish community organization, for an essay comparing the diversity of her school and Boyle Heights with that of a colorful garden filled with different types of flowers.
Marie, who, as part of the “greatest generation,” lived through the Great Depression and World War II, married John Ybarra, a staff sergeant with the Marine Corps during the war, in 1950. The couple raised their eight children in John’s childhood home in the Mount Pleasant area of Boyle Heights and this remained Marie’s home for the rest of her life because she never wanted to leave the neighborhood.
She was an advocate for her community of Boyle Heights and loved the Benjamin Franklin Library, fighting for it to be rebuilt in the community after the original library was demolished. She worked tirelessly attending meetings with Los Angeles City Council member Arthur K. Snyder, the library’s staff, and other representatives from the City of Los Angeles until the new library was finally built. She treasured a signed photograph presented to her in 1976 from council member Snyder. She referred to the councilman as “Tom Sawyer” because of his red hair and he accepted this nickname fondly as he knew my mother truly appreciated all the work he did.
Marie Ybarra
That same year, 1976, Marie took a photo of Prospect Park with her Polaroid camera. On the back of the photo she had written this note: “Sort of a sad lonely park. It does have some ‘valuable trees.’ Children would rather have some playground equipment.” Eventually her idea would come to fruition. Working with the local council member, play equipment was purchased and installed at the park. She called the new play equipment “the doodads” and would often take her own grandchildren to play there. Later on, more playground equipment was added and amenities were upgraded through the years by the various council members of Council District 14, City of Los Angeles.
In the mid-2000s, when daughter Diana was working with other community members and supporters to organize and coordinate the formation of the Boyle Heights Historical Society with neighbors and long-time residents, Marie enthusiastically backed that work and was elated to know the organization finally became reality. She enjoyed learning about the many improvements that were taking place in Boyle Heights and looked forward to the future. She knew and believed Boyle Heights would be beautiful and diverse once again – just as she had written in her essay years ago.

Marie stood 4’11″ and weight under 100 pounds, but her spirit was strong and her feet and heart were planted firmly in the ground of Boyle Heights, a community she lived in and loved for over 85 years!

Remembering Daniel Muñoz (1949-2017)

Daniel Muñoz, a founding board member and recently elected president of the Boyle Heights Historical Society, passed away on July 12 at the age of 68. In honor of Danny, who was so instrumental in the establishment of the organization, the Society wants all of its members and others who are interested in Boyle Heights history to know that he will be greatly missed by the Boyle Heights Historical Society and hundreds of other friends. He was a dedicated preservationist and historian who loved Los Angeles and California history.
His passion for Los Angeles history and California history was evident through his membership and participation in numerous organizations such as the Associated Historical Societies of Los Angeles County, for which he served as president; the Los Angeles City Historical Society, for which he was also a past president; and many other local historical groups, including The Westerners, Los Angeles Corral; The Los Angeles Conservancy; San Fernando Valley Historical Society; Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society; Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley; Conejo Valley Historical Society; Southern California Railway Plaza Association, Inc.; Culver City Historical Society; Historical Society of Monterey Park; Chinese Historical Society of Southern California; Little Landers Historical Society and others. He was also a member of other state and national organizations.
In 2005, the Boyle Heights Historical Society Coordinating Committee, reached out to Daniel to help start their organization in Boyle Heights. Daniel told Diana Ybarra, the coordinator of the effort, that he had tried to start an historical society several years ago since he knew Boyle Heights had many historical structures and an amazing history. He was thrilled to be our mentor and help guide us. He also introduced our organization to his dear friend, Hynda Rudd, who had retired from the City of Los Angeles as their archivist. The Boyle Heights Historical Society was very fortunate to have both Daniel and Hynda serving as mentors and guiding us throughout initial formation.
Danny Munoz
Moving forward, Daniel then engaged our organization in activities that introduced us to and linked us with numerous other historical societies, museums, historians and so much more. As president of the Associated Historical Societies of Los Angeles County, he held quarterly meetings at various historical sites throughout Los Angeles County and would share the interesting historical information through their newsletter. The Boyle Heights Historical Society hosted an AHSLAC meeting in our community at the historic Linda Vista Hospital Building (old Santa Fe Hospital). The board of directors were invited to tour the roof top and enjoyed a view that allowed them to see all of Boyle Heights looking north to the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains, west to downtown Los Angeles, and far south and east. This would not have happened had it not been for Daniel connecting our organization with the larger network of historians and museums.
Although Daniel was busy, he always had time for a telephone call. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and expertise. He was passionate about history of Los Angeles. He was excited to share the history with everyone who was interested. He was very soft spoken and one would never realize the extent of knowledge he had about the history of California. This knowledge is importantly reflected in the large archive of regional history that he created and stored in the beautiful Victorian-era home in Angeleno Heights that he and his husband, David Hlovich, lovingly restored and lived in since the 1980s.
Daniel had been recently elected as president of the Boyle Heights Historical Society after serving as vice-president for several years. Sadly, shortly after his election, Daniel was in the hospital and very ill and was unable to fulfill his duties as the newly elected president. It is a great loss to our organization to learn that he had passed away. However, his inspiration will live on every day in the work the Boyle Heights Historical Society will do and hopefully Daniel will smile down upon us with approval.
Rest in Peace our dear, beloved Danny.
The Boyle Heights Historical Society