Greetings everyone. Before getting started I’d like to thank you for being here today as we celebrate the life of my father Ted Sausedo and his Heavenly rebirth. For those who may not know me I’m Ted’s son John. By the way, if at times it should sound like I’m rambling it most likely because I am. Sorry.
Where do you begin when talking about a man whose life spanned nearly 92 years? 91 years, 10 months and 1 day to be exact. That’s a lot of living. God blessed my dad with longevity but sadly, he was saddled with a failing body. He had no cancer or heart problems but suffered from rheumatoid arthritis of his knees, hips and 3 discs in his lower back. The cartilage in these areas had degenerated to the point where it was bone on bone or close to it, and extremely painful particularly in the weeks before he passed. His condition was no doubt the result of a nearly 40 year career as a truck driver. All those years of jumping down from the cab and bed of his rig, all the lifting, rolling loads, shifting, braking and clutching, took its toll. I’m sure all the countless Saturdays he spent with my Uncle Charles helping my grandpa with cement work didn’t help much either, his body was a wreck.
My dad was born in Arcadia on January 5th 1924 on the feast day of St. Telesforo a martyred Pope of the early Church. As was sometimes the custom he was given the Saints name. Over the course of his life Telesforo answered to other names as well, Ted, KiKi, Zeke, Hollywood, Sarge and for almost 40 years he’s been Papa. In recent years I’ve taken to calling him Pop’s, but he was, and will forever be my dad.
Of all the names my dad answered to ‘Zeke’ was my favorite. It sounds like a truck drivers name and fit right in with the names of the two drivers he worked with for 27 years at San Gabriel Valley Lumber. Yeah ‘Zeke’, ‘Buff’ and ‘Axel’ all drove big rigs. They were the Manny, Moe and Jack of trucking.
The name ‘Zeke’ was given to my dad by one of his good friends Chema Vasquez who he’d met back in 1940 when he was 16. My dad had gotten his first car and was frequently driving over to Azusa from Arcadia to hang out with his cousin Lino Salse. Lino eventually introduced my dad to the Vasquez brothers and they all became fast friends. In time the Vasquez boys introduced my dad to the Morales boys and somewhere along the way to my mom Angela Morales. And the rest as they say is history.
Yeah Chema and Zeke were quite a pair. They were of course also drinking buddies. Actually there were two other friends who’d join them on their drinking adventures. Like Chema and Zeke they also had nicknames Raffa and Tuto. The four of them would frequently get together at Stones Liquor Store on Gladstone. They’d sit in the rear of the parking lot drinking beers and passing around pints of whiskey. Sometimes if it was getting late and he still wasn’t home my mom would throw a slow cruise by Stones. My dad would usually see us and within ten minutes or so he’d be home.
Then sometime around 1974 or 75 my dad began getting headaches whenever he drank alcohol and decided to stop drinking. Through the years that followed he might have a beer or a glass of wine every now and then, but not regularly. In fact I can’t remember the last time I saw him drink. Although he never really talked about it, I believe his decision to quit was based on much more than just the headaches and was actually part of a change that he’d been experiencing since the death of his mom. She died in the fall of 1972 and he took it very hard. I had just turned 21 and it was the first time in my life that I had ever seen my dad cry. He was a tough old man and had raised me to believe that men/boys don’t cry. If I was crying or whining about anything he was always willing to give me a reason. His spankings were legendary.
On the day my grandma died I came home and found my dad sitting alone in the living room crying. All the years of conditioning made me want to walk up to him and say “What are you doing? Are you crying? Men don’t cry!” As much as I wanted to I didn’t, which is surprising considering our lack of relationship and the fact that I had a bad habit of speaking first and thinking later. Yeah words, usually the wrong ones, seemed to just jump from my mouth, still do sometimes. But that time I chose to say nothing. I sat down beside him, put my arm around him and we both had a good cry. It was one of the best decision I ever made and the first step on the road to healing and restoring our relationship.
I have many fond childhood memories of my dad, the family vacations, watching him making breakfast for the family on weekends, going with him to job sites to help my grandpa with cement work, all those long, leisurely drives Sunday afternoon drives, stopping somewhere along the roadside and having a picnic lunch. Our regular trips to Los Angeles for fried shrimp at Johnny’s Shrimp Boat. We always seemed to run into Azusa friends there as well. We’d play the “Who can see the city hall first game” on our way into L.A. Good times. And I’ll never forget the family outings at Tin Can Beach they were a blast. But my fondest childhood memories are of going to work with my dad. I loved climbing into the cab of his big rig and taking off with him to San Diego, Arrowhead, Big Bear, Yucca Valley and so many other places. Sometimes my sister or grandpa went with him but I got to go the most. In the big rig my dad was in his element, I was in his world and loved it! In the cab of his truck or hard at work we had an awesome relationship. I wish it could have always been that way, but at home it was quite another matter.
At home he was tough as nails. If I had friends over many of them made it a point to leave before he got home from work. Sometimes he’d surprise us and get home early and there’d be a mad scramble to get cars out of the driveway so he could pull in and park. He’d climb out of car with his shirt sleeves rolled up over his big biceps and the top two buttons of his shirt unbuttoned revealing his hairy chest and slowly walk up to us. My friends would be shaking in their boots! He seldom said anything to them he’d just stand there eyeballing them. He might ask me about my chores or some other yard work related topic or give me some job to do. When he walked into the house everyone gave a huge sigh of relief. Some of them took to parking on the street instead of the driveway which is what my dad probably wanted anyway. I think he secretly enjoyed the effect he had on my friends. He was a rough and tumble truck driving man and felt a need to come across that way, but not with everyone mind you, just me and my friends and maybe some of his buddies.
Funny but I always knew there was a big softy in there somewhere and every once in awhile I’d see him although I wasn’t meant to. Like the time I rescued a small puppy from the middle of Foothill Blvd and brought it home. He huffed and puffed about it for days but reluctantly let us keep the dog. Several months later I happened to hear him drive in from work. My car was in the garage so he had no idea anyone was home. After about ten minutes he still hadn’t come in so I went to the kitchen window to see what he was doing and found him lying on the lawn rolling around with the dog. I couldn’t believe it. He was actually playing with the dog.
Another time he came home early and stayed outside so I checked on him and found him sitting on my motorcycle pretending to be riding. The same motorcycle he had given me so much grief about buying. Both times I thought about going out and confronting him with a “I thought you didn’t like the dog” or “I thought you hated my motorcycle.” but I never did. It felt good watching him smiling and enjoying himself. I only wish he would have felt more at ease to be that way in front of me. Years later my grandpa told me that my dad had once owned an old Indian motorcycle when he was younger. Sitting on mine must have brought back some good memories.
My dad was also a veteran of WWII where he served as a member of the Army/Air Corp 736th Bomb Squadron in the African & European Campaigns. In 1950 a few months after marrying my mom he was recalled by the Army and sent to Korea where he held the rank of Sargent. He was proud to have served his country and occasionally shared a tale or two. He especially liked the time he spent stationed in Italy. He would always speak about one day returning to Italy but never did. He used to joke that Cookie, Teddy and I just might have some brothers and sisters over there, our “other” family. I don’t know, he might have been serious.
In 1988 my dad was driving for Arcadia Lumber when he climbed down from his rig for the final time. He loved driving so his decision to retire at age 58 came as somewhat of a surprise. He had always planned to work until 62 or 65, but as we all know plans change, he simply tired of driving.
One of his favorite driving stories was about the time he lost a load of lumber down a hillside up in Bradbury. There was even a big write up and pictures in the Daily Tribune. But my favorite story was about the time we were coming back from a delivery in Yucca Valley and stopped at Hadley Fruit stand to get some cold lemonade. My dad left the truck and trailer parked next to the road and left it running. As we stood there drinking our lemonade I noticed the empty truck and trailer slowly rolling away. I quickly told him and he took off running across the parking lot. I’d never seen him move so fast. By the time he caught up with the truck it had crossed both sides of the highway, gone off road, knocked down a wood rail fence and came to a stop in an empty field. Apparently he hadn’t set the brake properly. My dad managed to pull the truck out of the field and back on the road without too much problem then he circled around to pick me up and we took off. At first he was very upset but there was no damage done except for a few fence rails and after awhile we both had a good laugh about it. Still before we got home he swore me to secrecy and I readily agreed.
My dad enjoyed retirement. In time they sold their home, stayed with my sister awhile, then moved on to Las Vegas. They enjoyed almost a year there until November of 1991 when my mom suffered a massive heart attack and died. My dad was crushed. His wife of 41 years was gone, his love, his partner. It was only the second time I’d seen him cry. He moved back immediately and lived with my sister in Glendora for a couple of years. We actually thought that he wouldn’t be with us for very long after mom died. He seemed so sad and lonely.
The first few years he spent most days at my mom’s grave site. If we were looking for pop’s that was the first place we’d check. 99% of the time we’d find him there sitting in a folding chair reading the newspaper and listening to the radio, or tending to my mom’s grave. He had quite an assortment of battery powered grass trimmers and edgers, and an ample supply of baby oil to clean and polish her brass headstone. We used to tease him that mom had the best maintained grave sites at Oakdale. He was a good caretaker, the best. My mom’s passing was another major catalyst in bringing my dad and I closer together.
In September of 94 after much coaxing on my part about getting back out on his own again, he began looking for a place. In mid October he made an offer on a mobile home in Covina. I don’t think he ever really thought he’d actually be moving, he’d made some ridiculous low ball offer on the unit and never believed they would accept it, but they did. He was really surprised as was my aunt Lucy who was his real estate agent. He lived there nearly 17 years. At this time I’d like to thank Stella Gonzalez and the entire Gonzalez family for the part big part they played in my dad’s life. If he wasn’t with us he was with you and your family. He enjoye being with you. Thank you so much.
My dad moved from his mobile home in February 2011 when my younger brother Teddy passed away. In the span of one week my dad lost not only his youngest son Ted but his younger sister Grace. It was a sad time for all of us. By that time my dad had already been having problems with his knees and using a cane. Some days he had great difficulty negotiating the steps leading up to the back door, and he’d already taken a few falls, so a change was definitely in order.
We found him a little house about a quarter mile from us and he continued to live alone for another eight months. Then in October 2011 he passed out at home. Thank God he wasn’t alone. My daughter Janene was there cleaning and though it scared the hell out of her she was able to keep it together and get Papa the help he needed. He was in the hospital for observation for a few days and released.
A few days later he had a follow up appointment with his doctor who informed him that he could no longer live alone. And as if losing his independence wasn’t bad enough he was also told that he couldn’t drive anymore. In a matter of minutes my dad lost two of his greatest freedoms. But he handled it like a champion. If the doctor said that’s how it had to be then so be it. He always listened to his doctor. He handed over his keys without a problem and never drove again.
As for living arrangements my sister’s two story condo wouldn’t work and he’d already let us know that he didn’t want to live in a retirement home so Ray and I invited dad to come live with us. An invitation he gladly accepted. Our home is single story and we had a spare bedroom so why not. For 18 years he provided for me, it was my opportunity to return the favor.
Initially the idea of having my dad live with us kind of blew my mind. This was the man I used to butt heads with almost daily when I was a teen, the man I couldn’t wait to get away from. Now he was coming to live with us. If someone would have told me when I was in my 20’s that my dad and I would one day be living under the same roof again I would have been on the ground laughing. But as I said earlier things change, people change. He was no longer the angry man who raised me and hadn’t been for quite some time. He was so mellow and easy to get along with besides, I felt I owed it to him. He enjoyed being here and we enjoyed having him. He was with us for the last 4 years of his life. It was an honor to have him here living with us and I told him as much on Thursday the day before he died.
My dad was also a real gentleman. In all the time that he was with us he never once raised his voice to Raylene or I, never said a cross word and always, and I do mean always, expressed his appreciation with a thank you.
In the last few years as my dad’s mobility waned he spent the majority of his days reading, praying and watching TV. He didn’t have many visitors so he spent much of his time with his best friends, John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Yul Brynner, James Garner, Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin and so many others on the Western Channel. He loved his Westerns. He also enjoyed Dancing with the Stars and the movies on the Lifetime Network. Sometimes he would just sit in his recliner and watch the world outside. Raylene had placed a couple of bird feeders right outside his window so there were always a lot of birds around. He loved to watch them. He also liked watching the street. He was a one man neighborhood watch. He knew everything that was going on on our block. We used to tell him he was just like Mrs. Kravitz the nosy neighbor from Bewitched and he’d laugh.
My dad has always been a man of few words, a peaceful, quiet man, a righteous hard working man. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to tease. A week before he passed I went in to see him wearing a Halloween Batman mask. I leaned over him and said, “I am the Batman” in my best super hero voice. He just shook his head. “I am the Batman.” I repeated, He looked up at me, smiled and said “the Batman? You look more like the Fatman.” Yeah pop’s was a funny guy.
He leaves behind quite an incredible legacy. I will miss seeing him everyday, I already do. It was very hard watching my dad’s five month decline, especially last week when his pain became so unbearable that hospice had to increase the dosage of his medication and administer it more frequently so that he would be comfortable. He slept most of the time. I can only hope that his sleep was filled with sweet dreams.
My dad told us quite some time ago that he was ready to move on and longed to be in Heaven. He couldn’t understand why he was still here. Last June when I went in to tell my dad about the death of my cousin David, he cried and asked why God would take a younger man instead of him, someone whose ready. Well his wish has come to pass. We will miss him of course, but rejoice in the fact that he is now in his Heavenly home, beyond grief and free of earthly pain, reunited with my mom, younger brother, his mom and dad and two sisters Natalie and Grace, and other family and friends that have gone before. I’m sure he received an incredible welcome into Heaven. My dad has crossed over into the Light and found eternal life! His soul has been set free and now he’s resting comfortably in the arms of the Lord.
At this time I would ask that you please stand up and put your hands together for my dad Telesforo Sausedo and a life well lived.
Love You Dad, see you on the other side…