Last week my cousin, Margaret (Yaya), called and asked me if I would ride to Flagstaff with her on Memorial Day. She was going up to put flowers on her husband Tony's grave and wanted some company for the ride up to northern Arizona. Of course I said I would go because I would do just about anything for her and I dearly loved Tony.
Cameron and I picked Yaya about about 8:00 a.m. and headed for Flagstaff. Along for the ride was her pug, Maurice Antonio Gomez Gabaldon. Cousin Mo is the reason we have our pugs! When we got to Flagstaff, we left Mo with her grandson, Sam, and went to take the flowers to the cemetery. We first went to the city cemetery to put flowers on the graves of Tony's first wife's family. We then went to the Catholic Cemetery and put flowers on Tony's grave, along with this first wife, Jackie.
I got to thinking about growing up in Douglas and how every Memorial Day we went to Bisbee to put flowers on my great grandparents' graves and then went to the cemetery in Douglas to put flowers on my grandparents' graves. It occurred to me that I have not done anything similar on Memorial Day and that my kids never did either. When they were growing up, we always went to Douglas for the summer. However, we usually didn't get down there until mid June because school was out later then. Having no immediate family buried up here, we just never did this.
So this was Cameron's first time for doing something like this. He helped Yaya put the flowers into the ground and we talked about the importance of remembering people.
On the way to Flagstaff, Yaya and I talked a lot about Tony. She told me how much she misses him even now. Tony died in January of 1998. Tony was larger than life. He was an educator and a politician. He served many years in the Arizona State Senate and was a proponent of education. Tony was famous for his Mexican food and for the many fundraisers that he did for different politicians through the years.
After we visited Tony's grave, I asked Yaya if we could show Cameron the residence hall that is named after him at NAU. So we drove over to it and got out and went in. Cameron was able to see the picture of Tony and what was written on the plaque about his service to education and to NAU. Gabaldon Hall at NAU actually overlooks the cemetery where Tony is buried.
Tony was not only known for his Mexican food, he was also known for the wonderful stories that he told. Tony could talk to anyone about anything. Yaya and I talked about how he would probably feel about the way politics in Arizona has become. He would have been very sad to see how things are being handled.
One of my favorite stories about Tony was when he was in the Arizona State Senate. It was about the time that politicians started to think that standardized testing was the "end all, be all" for public education. Having been a teacher and a principal, Tony knew education and was always on the side of public education in our state. He decided to introduce a bill that would require that anyone running for the Arizona Legislature have their IQ score on the ballot next to their name!! Of course, this was done "tongue in cheek," but he truly researched it and wrote it as a regular bill. I remember at the time it made national news. Actually, I think it wouldn't hurt for this to happen today!! It kind of puts things in perspective as far as I am concerned.
As I said, Tony was larger than life. He always had an opinion about something, but could back it up with facts. He and my mom got along great. I absolutely loved the time spent with him and all of my Phoenix cousins over the years. As I told Yaya today, New Year's Eve has not been the same since Tony died. We always had so much fun that night!!
This Thursday, June 3, would have been Tony's 80th birthday. Tony was a wonderful human being and I am so glad that he was a part of my life. I miss him, too!
I am so glad that Yaya asked me to go with her today and I am glad Cameron came with us for another one of the many wonderful lessons that he gets about the importance of family and traditions!