Frank Esparza Jr. passed away peacefully in his home in Carpinteria surrounded by his loving family on Dec. 21, 2013. Frank was 91 years old.
Frank is survived by his love of his life and wife of 70 years, Irma; daughter Delores Valencia and husband Ernie Valencia and granddaughter Anna; son James Esparza Sr. and wife Marivel Esparza, grandson James Jr. and granddaughter Kira; brother Felix; sisters Enedina and Jessie; stepbrother Henry; stepsisters Felicitas and Ramona; and many special nephews, nieces, cousins and extended family. Deceased are siblings Manuel, Lupe, Mike, John and Tony.
Frank was born in East Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 1922, son of a hardworking railroad worker. Frank spent most of his early years in Corona, Calif. He attended Corona High School, where he was an athlete of natural ability and earned seven letters in track, baseball and football. He was team captain of track his senior year, and would later earn four varsity letters in college. Frank was also an avid boxer and "golden gloves" competitor.
Frank graduated from high school in June 1942 and the next day enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving from 1942 to June 1946. Frank became a skilled aircraft machinist and mechanic. He was assigned to the USS Lexington and repaired a variety of aircraft. Frank was also a gunner and assigned shore patrol. He boxed for the Navy Kaneoe NAS team, and played fullback with the Kaneoe Klippers.
Frank met Irma Rawlins at a USO dance in Oakland, where they fell in love. They married in Jan. 23, 1944.
After the war, Frank attended college on his GI bill, completing his undergraduate work at Riverside College and at Los Angeles State. He did his graduate work in counseling and guidance at Fresno State. Throughout his career in education, he wore many hats. He taught math and P.E., coached football and track, and counseled young men while in Bakersfield. Frank was hired by SBCC in 1969 to fulfill a needed role in counseling for the Hispanic community. He worked to help create the many study programs still offered to assist underrepresented Hispanic youth. Frank's dedication to counseling and educating youth spanned over 30 years.
Frank was one of the original founders of Casa de la Raza, was a member of Union Civica, Sister Cities Foundation, and had many more civic achievements, including being a member of the local American legion and uptown Lions Club.
An athlete to the core, he officiated countless track and field events at the schools and colleges, officiated at the 1984 Olympic Trials and marched in the Rose Parade, where he hand-carried the USA Olympic float.
Frank will be best remembered by his friends and family for his dedication to his immediate extended family, youth and athletics activities. Many wonderful memories were made by participating for 30 years in the children's Fiesta parades with family and friends. He was a true Navy airman, now flying high in heaven with his new wings.
Wherever Frank was, there was never a stranger; he had the wonderful trait of striking a conversation with everyone he met. God bless you, Frank, for the many, many lives that you touched, enhanced and improved by your love and guidance.
Visitation will be held at the Welch-Ryce-Haider Chapel at 15 E. Sola St. from 3 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 30. Mass we be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31 at Holly Cross Church, 1740 Cliff Drive, with burial to follow at Santa Barbara City Cemetery. A reception in his honor will be held at Holly Cross Church Hall.