My sister, Cheyanne, is my sewing project designer. She is currently working on some original items featuring my fabrics including aprons, oven mitts, handbags, quilts and placemats. She lives in a small town outside of Bozeman, Montana. She is a very creative seamstress and quilter making baby quilts, Christmas stockings, fabric tree ornaments and prairie clothing to sell in the local farmers’ markets and antique stores. At the markets, she sells her goods out of the back of her vintage Studebaker truck which is quite a vision.
Eulogy by Debra Valencia
Presented on July 26, 2008 at the Mass of the Christian Burial for Eduardo del Rosario Valencia
"If you spend all your time worrying about dying, living isn't going to be much fun."
These could have been my father’s words… — they are actually from a popular television show.
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One thing for sure, my dad liked to have a good time. And the things that made him happy were simple and consistent:
In the summer, it was fishing on his boat, catching one big fish or lots of little ones, steaming crabs and having a feast that lasted hours, a backyard barbeque while entertaining friends and family, or going for a Sunday drive in one our many convertibles. The boat was his favorite pastime and sometimes we would go out every single Saturday and Sunday from May through September and he always made sure his kids were with him.
In the winter, it was reading the Sunday edition Washington Post from cover to cover, watching the weekly football game or occasional boxing match on tv, cooking a good meal—always a big breakfast on Sundays with pancakes, bacon and eggs. And for dinner usually something Filipino, fish frozen from his summer catch, a stewed chicken or roast of beef. He was the best cook and learned all his mother's Filipino recipes and then mastered his favorite American dishes too.
He also loved a good scotch on the rocks and a cigarette — Johnny Walker Black and Camels to be exact. He liked these vices just a little too much as they eventually negatively impacted his health later on. He told the same joke many times, "Did you hear the one about the guy who starved to death? The doctor told the patient to quit smoking so the guy stopped eating too because he said 'what's the point of eating if I can’t have a cigarette after my meal?'." Yes, my dad was stubborn about his ways.
When I look in the mirror and I see him in my face. When I look into my son’s face, I see my dad there too. My dad was so excited when Westin was born. One of the first observations he made was “I think he looks Filipino!” In addition to my Filipino facial features, I got other “not-so-obvious” things from my dad including artistic talent, a mathematical mind, high energy level and street smarts. He even taught me how to be organized, drive like a hot shot, the fastest way to iron a shirt, and how to keep a scrapbook of memorabilia.
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As I scan through my memories, there are so many things my dad taught me that make me the person who I am today.
When I was 5 years old, he removed the training wheels on my little red two-wheeler and pushed me down a hill. I got stung by a bee as soon as I took off, but he yelled to keep going anyway. And before I knew it, I was riding a bike like the big kids. This made me brave and not afraid to take risks.
When I started first grade, he taught me how to pack my own lunch — a simple bologna sandwich with an apple in a brown paper bag—and how to set my little wind-up alarm clock so I could wake up on my own without my parent's help. This was how to be self-reliant.
When I was 8 years old, he taught me how to water ski and to drive our speed boat while towing him on water skis. Note: There were no other adults on the boat — just me and my two sisters. This was fearlessness (or maybe craziness).
When I was 10 years old, I baked a miniature devil’s food cake with my Suzy Homemaker Easy Bake oven and gave it to my dad . He was so happy with the results that he encouraged me to cook, "bake a full size cake for me next time". I’ve been cooking ever since.
When I was 15 years old, he taught me how to drive a car and insisted that it must be a stick shift. And it wasn't just any ordinary stick shift, but my grandfather's 1955 xk140 Jaguar roadster, not an easy car to drive, even for an experienced driver. This made me a good driver and I also shared his lifelong passion for sports cars.
When I was a teen, he brought back a Karaoke machine from Japan, on his first trip back to the Philippines. It was something we had never heard of here in the U.S. but we started singing with him. This is how he showed me to have a good time and be the life of the party.
He taught me how to earn my own money, first by paying me 25 cents each to iron his dressy shirts. Then encouraging me to work — so I delivered newspapers and did lots of babysitting from ages 10 to 13 then got my first real job at a sandwich shop the age of 14. I’ve been working ever since. When I started my own business, I was confident. This was how to be financially independent.
He was always picking up the tab at a restaurant even when he didn’t have to, giving someone a job when you didn’t have a job opening, coming to everyone’s rescue when they needed help. This was how to be generous.
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When he started having strokes over 15 years ago — caused from smoking, he began a slow decline that was very hard for us to watch. He gradually lost interest or the ability to do all the simple things he liked. First the cooking and entertaining stopped, then the boat was too hard to handle, eventually travel became difficult, cooking got reduced to basics, even scotch did not taste good and was eventually dropped.
He eventually lost the sparkle in his eye and that spark for living life to the fullest the way he used to have. Though he still enjoyed our phone calls and visits, he was a mere shadow of his former self.
I was planning to come see him on his birthday on September 24th, which had an annual ritual over the years since I lived in either Philadelphia or Los Angeles. I now regret not coming to see him earlier this year, maybe in April or May. The last time I talked to him was on Father’s Day. I had sent him a framed print of his Coolidge High School photo that I had restored and colorized with much help from a close friend. The original black and white photo has always been my favorite of him and it has been on my dresser or desk for many years. The card read “To the most handsome father in the world! Happy Father’s Day.” I had thought about that project for a couple of years and had planned to give it to him last Christmas so I’m very glad he got to see it.
Although I was not ready to lose him last Saturday, I have to hope that he is in a better place where there is no pain and he can do all the things he likes. After the final stroke, he seemed to wait for me to fly to Washington DC from California. Although he was in a coma at this point, I got to spend his last 24 hours with him before he took his final breath.
He leaves behind his wife of 51 years, three daughters and his four grandchildren. He provided a good life for us and I know that he loved us all. I definitely had a special connection with him. Being the first child—we spent a lot of time with together when I was little. He used to take me with him when he was delivering automotive parts and sit me on the counter. He even took me to his favorite bar to show me off.
Our dad lived life on his own terms—he lived it his way. His theme song of life was by one of his favorite singers, Frank Sinatra, and the song was My Way.
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Daddy, if you can hear me, I am comforted to know that you lived your life to the fullest. I love you and I will carry you in my heart forever. For certain — you will never be forgotten. And I hope very much that we meet again on the other side.
Your loving daughter, Debra
I can’t believe how fast the years fly by! It was on this very day 10 years ago when I met my future husband, Jeff. We had corresponded for a few days via Match.com. We had each joined the dating site just the week prior. On paper he had everything I was looking for. Tall and good looking: check. Athletic and healthy: check. Educated and smart: check. Good job and stable: check. Relatively normal: check. Hair: Well... you can't everything.
We set a casual Thursday night date to meet for a glass of wine at one of my favorite restaurants, Michi’s in Manhattan Beach. When I arrived he was waiting outside and very well dressed. The date went so well he invited me to stay for dinner and the dinner lasted 4 hours until we were the last to leave the restaurant! I was not disappointed and everything on his profile was true and more. Did I mention he is very neat, incredibly generous, does all the laundry and even opens doors (including car doors) for me? We’ve been together ever since and married a year later. Jeff is my rock and I wouldn’t be pursuing my dream of art without his limitless support. I love you!
P.S. I forgot to mention it was the best $25 I ever spent for 1 month membership on match!!
My grandmother, Socorro del Rosario Valencia was the most influential person in my life. She inspired me to cook, sew, be a lady, take care of my skin, appreciate traveling the world, and most importantly to pursue my career in art.
This photo of my grandmother was taken on a trip to New York sometime in the 1960s. She dressed so lady-like in a fitted suit, pearls and mink stole.
This is one of my grandmother's paintings. She loved flowers so painted them frequently plus other subjects she loved. She was a self taught artist so the style is naïve but charming. She signed her paintings as "Coring", her Filipino nickname, short for Socorro.
She passed away on February 21, 1983, 30 years ago today. I miss her so much.
The first major art project I can remember was single-handedly making the promotional bulletin board for the school’s book fair. I was in kindergarten and it was supposed to be a project produced by the entire class. The other students quickly lost interest and I ended up spending days doing all the work myself even staying after school several times to meet the deadline. It was a 3’ x 10’ scene of students buying books at the fair. It was made of entirely of colored yarn glued to the paper background. I remember the faces were spirals of yarn. My mother thought it was fascinating that I took on this project on my own and worked so hard on it. She just got a glimpse of my future work ethic.
From the age of five, I remember dreaming of living on a tropical island. I would draw pictures of myself dancing in a hula skirt with water and palm trees in the background and sometimes as a mermaid in the ocean. I don’t know where I came up with this idea since I had never been to an island. I lived in the heart of the city in Washington, D.C. surrounded by buildings and concrete playgrounds. Yet, I would draw the same images over and over again, sometimes on paper and other times with colored chalk on the sidewalk. Perhaps the craving for the tropics was in my blood since my father was born in the Philippines, a country comprised of 7,002 idyllic islands.
As you may have guessed from reading my website, I love to travel! World cultures and traditions inspire and motivate me to create. You can read about some of my recent travel experiences right here on my own personal blog. You can also get to know me through my posts each week about what I’m currently working on, what I’m doing in my life or where I’m planning to go on my next trip! I hope you will enjoy “Debra’s Blog” and getting to know me.