Dolores Chavez Arvizu Merino passed away peacefully in her sleep on the morning of April 15, 2015, in St. George, Utah. She was in her 105th year. Her birth was registered in Yuma, Arizona Territory on March 1, 1911, the tenth child of Francisco Martin Arvizu Sanchez and Antonia Chavez Hernandez.
After the death of her mother in 1917, Dolores spent part of her early childhood on the farm homesteaded in the Gila Valley by her grandparents, Cesario Chavez and Dorotea Hernandez. Dolores attended elementary school until the fourth grade, and then with her older sister, Adelina, kept house for their widowed father and four brothers in Gadsden.
At age 17 Dolores met Chemali (Jose Maria Soto Merino), a laborer, and they married shortly thereafter. They lived in Yuma and the small neighboring towns of Gadsden and Somerton until 1941 when Dolores and her husband decided to take their five children to Los Angeles to seek a new life in California. The family made San Diego their permanent home.
Dolores was the mother of Ernie (Jose Ernesto), Delia, Anne-Marie, Fred (Alfredo Federico), Joe (Jose-Maria), Rich (Ricardo Alfonso), and Roberta (Roberta Sylvia). Her husband, Chemali, and daughters, Delia and Roberta preceded her in death.
Although Dolores did not complete an elementary education, she was intelligent, curious, and eager to learn. She read profusely – books, magazines, newspapers – things that struck her fancy, and was self-taught. In later years when she did not have a garden or flower beds to tend, Dolores would read a newspaper from cover to cover, including the stock market reports, and comment on the state of the union.
Dolores always had a vegetable garden for fresh produce, and a beautiful yard of flowers – roses, sweet peas, dahlias, gardenias, poinsettias, petunias, geraniums, and many more. When her two youngest boys were small, she would cut flowers and make bouquets, and then send her boys out into the neighborhood to sell the flowers.
Dolores took a class in ceramics and set up shop in the garage. She was an excellent seamstress and made dresses, shirts, pants, blouses and skirts for family members. She also made the wedding dresses for her grand-daughters and great-granddaughters, and taught herself how to make drapes.
Dolores believed one should be actively engaged in life. She made friends easily and with many people. She would visit those that were ill; help those in need. She believed in being neat and clean and taking care of home in like manner. She set the example for her family and neighbors. She also believed in exercise, and in her late 80’s Dolores and her friend, Bea, would take a lap or two around the track at the local high school.
Family was important to Dolores. Frequent visits to extended family was a must. Therefore, the Merino family had close contact with many relatives, and maintain that contact to this date. Within the immediate family, birthdays and anniversaries and special events also turn into family-wide parties. This is especially true for the Christmas season when family members living away from San Diego make an effort to return home for the traditional Mexican Tamale feast on Christmas Eve, a tradition that began in the 1940’s.
Dolores not only knew her grandchildren and great-grandchildren by name, but also remembered her siblings’ offspring for special occasions.
Dolores Chavez Arvizu Merino descended from early Basque and Spanish explorers and pioneers to Mexico. Her Basque and Spanish ancestors arrived in Mexico City in the mid 1500’s. A Chavez ancestor was part of the military escort of Don Juan de Onate’s exploration into present day New Mexico in the year 1600, who later co-founded the city of Santa Fe. Her Arvizu ancestors, also military personnel, helped develop mining districts in northern Mexico.
Before her death Dolores was the oldest living Chavez of the generation that included Cesar Chavez Estrada, the United Farm Workers Union labor leader. Dolores’s mother, Antonia, was the oldest sister of Librado Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s father.
Dolores Merino is survived by fice children, 15 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, 17 great-great-grandchildren.
- Funeral services will be held on Friday, April 24, at the Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, California.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Metcalf Mortuary, 435-673-4221. For condolences, full obituary, and funeral listings please visit the Metcalf Mortuary website.