The Eulogy for Dominick Pesquera, Sr.
Dominick Pesquera, Sr. was born on November 20th,1931 in Santruce, Puerto Rico. At the age of sixteen he moved with his father to Brooklyn. Later, his mother, two brothers and three sisters would follow them to New York.
His father got a job as a superintendent in a building. Domingo, as he was known in those days was the only Hispanic kid in the neighborhood but his irresistible warmth and humor allowed him to overcome any prejudice towards his nationality he might have encountered. Although his English wasn’t strong, Domingo managed to get a job as a soda jerk at an Ice Cream Parlor in Coney Island, right across from the ocean. The Ice Cream Parlor happened to be just three blocks from where his future bride lived, and so it was in this setting at the age of nineteen that Domingo first laid eyes upon Jeanette. She was fifteen and in the company of her fourteen year old sister Peggy she often frequented the soda fountain where Domingo would serve them egg cream sodas. He was the first so-called “foreigner” Jeanette had ever met. His broken English didn’t deter him from asking Jeannette: “We go – we go out??” She tried to deflect him towards her more talkative sister, but Domingo knew who it was he wanted: “No, I want you!” he persisted: “We go out?!” Finally Jeanette agreed. “Where?”
Domingo was determined to take this pretty girl on an impressive date, so he made plans for them to go to Manhattan to see a show featuring a live performance of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. When Domingo picked Jeanette up, he was anxious about maneuvering the train trip to Manhattan, so he gave her the two hundred dollars cash he’d brought along to pay for the expenses of the date – a large sum of money to say the least. Jeanette was happy to take charge, and when the date was over she handed what remained of the money to her mother.
For the second “date” two weeks later Jeanette insisted that Domingo accompany her on a walk from the Ice Cream Parlor to her house in order to meet her first-generation Irish-American mother, a big woman with a strong personality. Domingo wasn’t too excited about this prospect, but he eventually went along with his new girlfriend. Jeanette’s mom wasn’t too happy about her daughter dating a Puerto Rican, but he charmed her with gifts of cookies and candy, eventually winning her over, the same way he sooner or later won over pretty much everybody else he met in life.
Two years after their first date, on November 21st, 1953 Domingo and Jeannette were married in a wedding that took place at the Bushwick Avenue Methodist Church. Three of Jeanette’s sisters served as her bridesmaids, and Domingo’s brother Jerry was his best man. Dom’s mother was on hand, even though she had wanted “Junior” (as he was known by his family) to meet a nice Spanish girl. His father, however, was unable to make the wedding because of recent accident he had suffered when a boil blew up where he worked. The reception was held at the home of Jeanette’s Mother. The young couple couldn’t afford a honeymoon.
Not long after the wedding, Domingo was drafted into the army (April 22, 1954), which resulted in his name being changed to the more “American” sounding “Dominick.” Dominick and Jeanette moved to Fort Dix where Dominick underwent basic training. It was there at Fort Dix that their first child was born, their daughter Darlene. Dominick stayed with his wife throughout labor, fleeing only when it came time for Darlene to be born.
Unfortunately, however, soon after his daughter’s birth Dominick was shipped off to the war in Korea. He would not see his wife and daughter for seventeen months.
Fighting in combat in Korea was a brutal experience, one he would rarely talk about, for as Sami would testify, it would bring tears to his eyes. He saw several of his buddies lose their lives, and received a bullet hole through his calf. Dom became friends with a Black sergeant, affectionately known as “Big Key” who took Dom under his wing, helping him to come out of the war alive. Although he didn’t have a license and had never learned to drive, he quickly learned to drive a jeep when that became one of his responsibilities.
At one point a North Korean prisoner-of-war was kept for several weeks in the company with which Dominick served in combat. It didn’t matter that the prisoner-of-war was the “enemy,” Dominick befriended him as well. After the war was long over, the former prisoner-of-war would visit Dominick and his family in America.
Following his discharge on April 12th, 1957 Dominick was reunited with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn where they lived together in an apartment on Bleeker Street. Dominick got a job working for a photocopier company in Manhattan, selling and servicing office machines. Although he’d driven a jeep routinely in the army, it would take several years before Dominick would get his license, so he took the bus and subway to work.
Dominick Jr. was born three years after Darlene, followed by Karen eighteen months later, and Kathleen eighteen months after that.
In 1963 the family moved to West New York in New Jersey where Dominick’s brother Jerry was living. Dominick finally got his driver’s license in 1965. This allowed the family to travel. Although he never learned to swim, Dominick enjoyed family trips in the summer time to Asbury Park and Long Branch. On his lunch breaks, Dominick would pick up Jeanette and food to eat for lunch and they’d head over to the school to take Darlene, Dom, Karen and Kathleen out for a quick picnic lunch, sitting in the car, parked under a tree.
In 1969 Sharon, their fifth child was born.
Throughout his life Dominick would use his ability to speak both English and Spanish to allow him to serve as a bridge between different communities. In 1971, as a result of the newly arrived population of Cuban Immigrants and the town’s need for someone who could communicate with them, Dominick was hired to serve as the truant officer of Memorial High School in West New York. In this position he became invaluable to the community, working closely with the mayor and other politicians. Before long, everybody in town knew Dominick. The students and parents he served loved him. Jeanette began working full time as a volunteer aide at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School, which allowed the children to receive free tuition, and Dominick served as the president of the PTA. It was there in West New York in 1976 that Keri-Lynn, Jeanette and Dominick’s last child, was born.
In 1980 the family moved to Mastic Beach, Long Island because Jeanette’s three sisters lived there, but it proved to be a mistake. Dominick was required Dominick to catch the train at 5 a.m. in order to make it to work in West New York on time. Beyond that, the family missed the connection they had to the community back in New Jersey, so in 1982 they moved back to North Bergen. Jeanette got a job at Value Line, while Dominick took a job as a shop steward at Cefco making fuses. Once again the fact that Dominick was bilingual and could bridge communities, along with his innate gift for winning people over led to career advancement, as he was promoted to the position of Human Resources Manager.
In 1984 the family moved three blocks across the border back into West New York where Sharon graduated from High School. Thanks to her Dad, Cefco was also the setting for Sharon’s first job, which allowed her to get a first hand view of just how much fun her father was in his relationships with the adults with whom he worked.
In 1987 Dominick made his one and only trip back to Puerto Rico during which he introduced Jeanette to his half sisters who still lived there.
In 1990 the hearts of Dominick and Jeanette were broken when their daughter Karen died. She left them, however, with two great blessings, her children Frank and Teela, whom Dominick and Jeanette raised as their own children.
In 1992 Dominick and Jeanette retired from their jobs and moved with Keri-Lynn and Frank and Teela to Oakland. Before long, however, Dominick was working as a school bus driver, once again becoming a favorite of kids and parents alike. Jeanette soon became accustomed to being known in Oakland as the wife of the warm-hearted bus driver.
Dominick had a special gift for knowing how to amuse children and to put them at ease. There was a special needs child assigned to Dominick’s bus line who had presented behavior problems, and it wasn’t clear that the boy could keep himself under control enough to ride the bus. Instinctively Dominick knew what to do to put the child at ease. With the child aboard, Dominick told all his passengers about a special child they were about to pick up that was rather shy and just happened to be invisible. With their attention captured, he pulled the bus over to the side of the road, opened the door, and made a big deal of welcoming the unseen child on board. Convinced of the child’s reality, all the children on board, including the one who previously had been so disruptive, became very quiet, sensing the presence of the shy, unseen child. From that day forward Dominick would always make a stop to pick up the invisible child with his mysterious, calming effect on the children.
Overtime Dominick began to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, leading eventually to his retiring from the demands of driving a bus. Jeanette had worked for several years as a crossing guard in Oakland, and so Dominick spent a day observing what she did, after which he concluded he could handle the job as well. He signed up to work as a crossing guard himself, which provided him with yet another setting to bless the lives of children and their parents.
Dominick and Jeanette travelled to San Diego to be on hand when Keri-Lynn gave birth to Piper, and ended up staying there for two months to help out with the newborn.
Dominick was a man at home in the kitchen, and he always prepared more food than was necessary. That way, if somebody happened to show up, they could be invited to stay for dinner. Hospitality was second nature to Dominick. At holidays he was famous for his Pasteles and his egg nog.
The one thing everybody said about Dominick – and I mean everybody – was he loved to have fun. Wherever he went, he brought fun with him. He was simply fun to be with, livening up whatever gathering of people he happened to find himself in.
In his nearly sixty years of marriage he was steadfastly devoted to his wife and children, and in the latter years, his grandchildren as well.