OBITUARY

Mercedes V. Garcia

March 24, 1931May 25, 2021
Play Tribute Movie

Mercedes Vinluan Garcia died peacefully May 25, 2021, in Bonita, California, slightly more than three months after celebrating her 90th birthday. Her oldest daughter and youngest sister were at her bedside.

She was born Mercedes Vinluan in the town of Binmaley, Pangasinan province, Philippines, on March 24, 1931, to Virginia DeLeon and Arsenio Vinluan. She was the second daughter of seven children.

Mercedes and her siblings -- Paz, Amparo, Rosita, Soledad, Hernando, and Amado -- were raised in Dagupan City, Pangasinan province, during a time that encompassed the occupation of the Philippines by Japanese forces in World War II and the U.S. military shortly thereafter. The youngest sibling, Amado -- known as “Mading” -- recalled how she carried him as a young boy and taught him how to flash a victory sign and call out “Joe” to the American servicemen in the streets after the war.

With her father, she supported the family through those difficult years, cooking peanuts for sale and offering to do laundry and ironing for the occupying soldiers. Sometimes she had to ask for rice from other relatives and neighbors just to help the family survive.

She met Francisco Garcia, a young man from neighboring Urdaneta who had joined the U.S. Navy, in the early 1950s. He had expressed an interest in Mercedes when he saw her in a studio portrait with her sisters that one of his shipmates, Venancio Fernandez, showed him; Venancio was her brother-in-law, married to her sister Soledad. Francisco asked him to find some way to meet her, and ended up finding her at an ironing board at home, with about 2 feet of laundry in the parlor. He told his children years later that he said under his breath that he "found" her. Because she didn't have much interest in who he was and why he was there, she continued her chores but called out to her mother that they had a visitor who was asking for her and her sister.

Francisco courted her soon thereafter; they married on April 15, 1952. She wasn't much for big displays, so they married in a civil ceremony and shared an evening "reception" dinner of Spam.

After their wedding, Francisco sent for his new wife to stay with him in the Washington, DC, area, where he was stationed. Mercedes found herself alone while her husband worked at the Pentagon; this is how her life as a stay-at-home Navy wife began. She returned home, with new baby Marie Eleanor in tow, to the Philippines after an overseas deployment; she gave birth to Arnold shortly thereafter. They pulled up stakes again and headed to Midway Island to dodge gooney birds for a time before returning to the United States, where Francisco was stationed in San Diego. They eventually bought a house in Chula Vista.

In 1968, Francisco -- by then a master chief petty officer -- reported for duty at the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, Georgia, to serve as a senior enlisted adviser to the commanding officer there. They rented out the Chula Vista house, and Mercedes and their children -- now including Joyce, born two years earlier -- joined him.

The family was surrounded by kind neighbors in Athens, and there was the occasional peach-picking trip or shopping errand in Atlanta. Arnold joined Little League, becoming a pitcher, and Francisco and Mercedes would work the concession stand at games. Mercedes would recall proudly that at the time, she learned how to make her excellent fried chicken from watching Lester Maddox, the segregationist restaurateur who became Georgia’s governor, on TV.

Mercedes didn't drive and had no desire to learn, even through the years of moving from one base or assignment to another. But she always looked forward to the adventure of weekend drives and road trips. After three years in Athens, the Garcias piled into the family’s Chevy Impala and took an epic 2,000-mile drive back to California, where they settled permanently in Chula Vista.

There were more adventures to be had, though largely closer to home: Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain. There were also trips to Las Vegas and Reno -- sometimes on a bus with Navy acquaintances, but usually just Francisco and Mercedes in his beloved Volkswagen van. She would make sure he stayed awake at the wheel by making two large Thermoses of coffee for the trips. And when Joyce got a job after college in Fresno -- six hours away -- they thought nothing of piling into the van to see her, even if only for a day trip.

(Years later, she and Eleanor would rent an RV and travel thousands of miles to Chicago for Joyce’s wedding in 2003.)

Francisco and Mercedes were married for 40 years until his sudden death in 1992 at age 65 from an aortic aneurysm.

The family was devastated by his loss, but Mercedes remained the anchor for her three children with a characteristic toughness that came with her years of survival during wartime and beyond. Her family was her whole world, and she endured. She also extended her fierce familial dedication to the scores of animals her children would bring into her life, and doted on the parade of dogs, cats, horses, snakes, and tortoises that came along, especially during her last 30 years. She and her Maltese, Mojo, were inseparable until she had to move to a group home in Bonita as her illness worsened.

Mercedes could be deeply intense about things, and she may have been a little too wrapped up at times in her kids’ lives, as demonstrated in her almost comical worry about the tiniest things that might befall them. (If any of them would go on a trip, they would have to call when they left the house, call when they got on the plane, call when the plane landed, then call when they got in the rental car, and so on. This is only a slight exaggeration.) But she ensured that they worked hard in school, succeeded, and got along.

However, she still maintained a surprisingly goofy sense of humor that would come out of nowhere. She was a phenomenal cook. And her generosity, especially with food, was legendary. (When it was time to finalize the menu at her daughter’s wedding reception -- Filipino food, of course -- she kept adding menu items until even the caterer told her she was ordering too much.)

She also had a deep faith; beyond the statues and religious portraits that populated the house, she could be caught praying intensely at bedtime. But she still remained alert to even the smallest hint of luck, good or bad. At Joyce’s wedding reception, a ladybug landed on her dress, and Mercedes was completely giddy, as ladybugs are supposed to be good luck. Few things excited her more than good omens, and to have one at her daughter’s wedding reception delighted her no end.

Mercedes is survived by two daughters, Marie Eleanor of Chula Vista and Joyce (husband Chris Buxton) of Elmhurst, Illinois; a son, Arnold, of Ramona, California; and a granddaughter, Francesca Buxton. Her husband preceded her in death, as did two children, David and Melanie, shortly after their birth, as well as her siblings Paz, Amparo, and Rosita.

She was diagnosed with dementia around the time her granddaughter was born in 2008, so Frannie never knew her grandmother at her liveliest and most lucid self. But Mom still delighted in her only grandchild, named after the husband she lost nearly 30 years ago.

The kids sometimes joked that Mercedes would outlive all of them. Ultimately, she died of natural causes, no doubt complicated by her long illness. She will be missed terribly.

Visitation with rosary recitation will be held Tuesday, June 15, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Glen Abbey Memorial Park's Little Chapel of the Roses, 3838 Bonita Road, Bonita. A private funeral will follow.

Services

  • Visitation with Rosary Service

    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

  • Committal Service

    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

  • "Celebration of Life" Reception

    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Memories

Mercedes V. Garcia

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Eugene Santos

June 14, 2021

Photo taken in 2017 with Auntie Bessie and my late Father.

Eugene Santos

May 31, 2021

Dear Eleanor, Arnold and Joyce, Photo taken a few years back when we would visit. Your Mom/ Auntie Mercing will be missed dearly.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY