José G. Villarreal, long time resident of Santa Barbara, passed away Aug. 11, 2020. José came to Santa Barbara from Chihuahua, Chih., Mexico.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Hesiquio Villarreal González and Petra Guerrero de Villarreal; his siblings Carmen Villarreal Vda. de Castaño, Andrés Villarreal Guerrero, Luis Villarreal Guerrero, Elena Villarreal de Garza, and Chuy Villarreal Guerrero; seven half-brothers and sisters; his first wife Juanita Gutierrez de Villarreal; his second wife Sharon Kay Villarreal; and beloved daughter Helen Elizabeth Villarreal Kozik (Chris).
José is survived and will be forever missed by his beloved children Joe Villarreal (Cecilia), Sharon Marie Villarreal, Richard Louis Villarreal (Ana) and Alice Jennine Villarreal Redit (Wayne); his precious grandchildren Elizabeth Maribel Villarreal, Chloe Marie Redit and Sarah Ivy Redit; countless nieces and nephews; and numerous lifelong friends.
José had some formal education, including accounting school. He was an avid reader and seeker of knowledge. He came to California as a young man, with no possessions or family. He taught himself English by reading newspapers and with any extra money he made washing dishes and other odd jobs, he enrolled in English classes.
He worked his way up the ladder to become chef of the Coral Casino of the Santa Barbara Biltmore under his mentor, the renowned chef de cuisine Jacques La Borgne. He worked there 25 years and was honored for his dedication and precision, before accepting the position of executive chef at La Cumbre Golf and Country Club, where he provided excellent service for the next 25 years.
Guests and co-workers alike took notice of his leadership and hospitality. José often worked 12 to 16 hour days, splitting his shifts in order to attend his five children’s school and sports activities. His dedication to his work was exemplified by the fact that he rarely took a day off work.
Among José’s proudest moments was his becoming a naturalized U.S citizen in 1968, alongside his dear sister-in-law Lucy Gutierrez Ortiz, but he always remained proud of his Mexican heritage. Once a citizen, he never missed voting in any election and became informed and involved in his community.
He supported workers’ rights, and in his later life was able to more actively participate in his community. He attended community information meetings, particularly those affecting the Eastside of Santa Barbara, and advocated for immigrants’ rights.
José was a long-time member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, as well as the Knights of Columbus. He was proud to participate in the Santa Barbara Police Department ride-along program and was mentioned a few times in the Santa Barbara News-Press for his efforts to improve the local community.
He was especially happy when volunteering with Food From the Heart, where he met many friends, like Grover Barnes. José was honored to have known Mr. Barnes, who was 100 years young. He always had a few minutes to talk while delivering meals to those in need. José was also proud to have met the wonderful chef there, Robin Monroe, who always referred to him as “Mr. José.”
As a youth, José was a talented athlete. He played baseball and basketball and trained as an amateur boxer. He also for a time was being groomed to become a bullfighter. José passed on his passion for sports to his children, all of whom played sports in high school. José was known as the “walking encyclopedia” of boxing.
He was proud to be a loyal Dodger fan. He attended many games and took his children when he could. He enjoyed watching and answering the questions on “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
Though he did not acknowledge it, his wealth of vocabulary, and knowledge of world events, politics, and history was noted by his family and friends. He loved watching classic movies, especially westerns.
After working for more than 50 years and raising five children, José was finally able to spend some time on himself. He was never happier than when his siblings would come to visit him from Chihuahua, or he would visit them. He enjoyed the occasional lunch with his friends.
He prided himself on the care of his plants and many fruit trees, and loved to watch the birds take baths in his garden. His most treasured times were those spent with family. He doted on his three grandchildren and loved to spoil each of them.
He will be remembered for instilling in his children and grandchildren his Catholic faith in God, the value of a dollar, gratitude for family, and a strong work ethic.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a Rosary is not permitted. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Fri., Aug. 21 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, followed by Interment at Calvary Cemetery in Santa Barbara. Face coverings are required.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in José’s name to Food From the Heart in Santa Barbara.