June 26, 1923 – January 8, 2019
Benita, age 95, passed away in peace on January 8, 2019, at her home of 44 years in Fresno. She was surrounded by her children, Michael Idiart, Linda Pebet and Rose Erdozaincy, and other relatives. Benita was born on a sheep ranch in Huron, CA. She was the youngest of seven children. Her parents were Matias Serrano and Vicenta Cartago Serrano, both born in the Basque provinces in Spain. She grew up on the sheep ranch with her brother, Florencio, and five sisters, Braulia, Manuela, Felipa, Julia, and Theresa. Benita was preceded in death by her parents, siblings and in-laws. She lived and worked on the sheep ranch until she was 18. Benita learned the value of hard work, love and loyalty to family and friends. Benita observed and experienced the hard work of Spanish and French Basque sheep herders, who came to America for a better life. Benita was devoted to helping these immigrants her entire life. Benita attended the first through the seventh grade in a one room school in Huron, CA. She traveled 18 miles to Coalinga High and graduated. Benita milked the goats, gathered the chicken eggs and occasionally did her homework. She attended Coalinga Junior College for one year in 1941. In 1943, Benita moved to Stockton, CA to live with her two sisters. During World War II, she proudly worked as a "Rosie the Riveter" in the Pollack Shipyard in Stockton, as a welder and burner. She said these were among some of the most fun times of her life. Benita and two men received the "NAVY E" Award for excellent work. She married John "Pete" Idiart, an American French Basque in Stockton. The marriage produced two children: Michael and Linda Idiart. In 1953, they all moved to Fresno to manage and live at the Yturri Basque Hotel. The family lived there until Pete and Benita divorced. In 1958, Benita married Segundo Garcia, originally from Spain. The birth of daughter Rose in 1959 completed the family. In 1960, the family purchased the Santa Fe Basque Hotel (across from the Santa Fe Railway Station). The family resided at the hotel. Benita and Segundo worked hard and were very successful. Both were like second parents to many Basque men and women through the years. All of their children attended college and contributed to their communities. A handful of Basque families, including Benita and Segundo, helped establish the Fresno Basque Club. In 2004, The Society of Basque Studies In America, inducted Benita into the Basque Hall of Fame, proclaiming Benita as a "Former hotel owner giving devoted care to immigrants, borders and the needy" and "for extraordinary contributions to Basque culture, welfare and identity." Benita served on the Fresno City Planning Commission for four years and the Fresno Housing and Community Development Commission for eight years. She was appointed to these positions by three different mayors. Benita is survived by her son, Judge Michael Idiart (wife Sharon), daughters, Linda Pebet (husband Joseph) and Rose Erdozaincy (husband Noel); seven grandchildren, Michael Jr. (wife Clarissa) and Daniel Idiart, Justin Pebet (wife Brittany), Joshua Pebet (wife Jessica) Noelle Pebet, Gabe Erdozaincy and Nick Erdozaincy; three great-grandchildren, Jackson and Jayden Pebet, Valentina Idiart, and another Idiart on the way. Benita was a model of hard work, possessed a great and mischievous sense of humor, and loved her family. Benita had a great life, will be greatly missed, but she believed it was her time to go and join her family that left before her.
Visitation will be held at Whitehurst, Sullivan, Burns & Blair Funeral Home on Thursday January 17, 2019 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Friday, January 18, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. Interment to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery. Remembrances can be made to the Fresno Basque Club-Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 406, Fresno, CA or to donor's favorite charity.
Mass of Christian Burial
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
2140 N Cedar Ave
- Visitation Thursday, January 17, 2019
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January 11, 2019
I will truly miss Benita and the time we spent together. Whenever I would visit her, she would welcome me with open arms, and say "Hi Honey!", and would give me a hug. She was a sweetheart and had an amazing sense of humor and I will always remember the great times we shared. My condolences to her family and I will pray for you all during this time.