Last week, Tom Fuentes was holding court in a quiet corner of San Diego’s Republican state convention. For 20 years (1984-2004) he chaired the Orange County GOP, and was arguably the most-influential County GOP chair in California’s long history.
Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and dozens of congressmen and state legislators relied on both his power and good counsel.
But Tom Fuentes did not want to talk about himself last week. “Where’d you go to college?,” “What does that flag lapel pin mean?,” “What’s your boss doing?”
The guy who has done everything in politics made each person gathered around him that day feel they were important and worthy of his respect.
Watching and listening, I saw why Tom Fuentes was/is so successful, and why he still draws a crowd to this day wherever he goes in Republican circles.
…………….The Fuentes Family in early California
In an interview this week, Mr. Fuentes kindly shared some family history, which helps explains why he is so motivated to build a stronger, freer California. It is a family tradition, and his ties to San Diego go back to 1834. It comes from a journal kept by his great-great-great grandfather:
“My great great great grandfather Victorian Vega arrived in San Diego on August 14th, 1834, aboard the brigantine Natalia. He was billeted upon arrival and had occasion to make some candy for Pio Pico (the future Governor of California).
“One dance was presented in the barracks of the Spanish merchant Don Jose Antonie Aguirre, who was married to the daughter of Captain Jose Maria Estudillo. The other dance was at the presidio, in the house of Don Juan Rocha, courtesy of Don Pio Pico.
“A few days after the festivities, Victoriano left for Mission San Luis Rey to join his family. From there, he traveled north to San Gabriel, and further north to Santa Barbara; eventually all the way to Monterrey by 1835. He worked as a carpenter in the house of the commissioner at the presidio. With the passage of time, he eventually returned south
to make a home at Mission San Gabriel in his last years.
“Our family has the good fortune of having Victoriano’s oral narrative of his life in early California, that all began in San Diego.
“Every time I visit the place of my ancestors’ first arrival in California, I think how San Diego must have been in those days gone by, and of those early pioneers who each contributed to its development and growth.
“As he disembarked from the ship Natalia in San Diego, Victoriano Vega was given some printed verses:
“‘Companions, our heavenly blessings, our congratulations
To a peaceful alliance, a lasting wish for peace
‘Companions, brothers and friends; to our victorious wives
Here in this beautiful landand to this fertile soil
We dedicate our lives.'”
This was the mystical spell California cast on newcomers so long ago, and to those who are perceptive, it still does today. We can be greatful to Don Victoriano for his dedication and for founding a truly great California family.
Victoriano Vega must be smiling today as he watches the continuing adventures of his distinguished descendant, Thomas A. Fuentes !
I (Jim Sills) was privileged to meet this TITAN, Tom Fuentes, for the first time in August 2010. He passed away yesterday in Orange County, May 18, 2012. He ran his race and fought the Good Fight. Well done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant. May God hold you in the Hollow of His Hand.