Santa Paula Times

Jess Victoria remembered as acting on what he believed right

May 15, 2009
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesServices were held Thursday for Jesus “Jess” Victoria, who was remembered as a man who stuck to his guns when it came to what the community activist believed was right.Jess, 85, a native of Santa Paula, suddenly passed away on Thursday, May 7, 2009, and according to his son Anthony of San Francisco, “has now been reunited with the great love of his life,” his wife Josephine. “Along with his family, his other great loves were for his country and his hometown, the city of Santa Paula.”Jess was born in his home in Santa Paula on December 23, 1923, and after graduating from Santa Paula High School he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as a combat medic with the infantry during World War II. Jess was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery.Victoria’s Shoes on East Main Street was opened by Jess more than 35 years ago, and it quickly became a hub of political discussion and community activism. Outspoken and opinionated, loyal to his friends as well as to his beliefs, and the first Grand Marshal of Santa Paula’s Labor Day Parade, Jess’ regular appearances before the City Council were often controversial, ranging from his public remarks that members learn to deal with criticism to multiple appearances after he was cited for an outdoor display violation that led to the changing of the city’s municipal code.“Santa Paula lost a great man yesterday with the passing of Jess Victoria,” City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz wrote on the city Blog Friday. “While I did not always agree with him, it is hard not to respect a man with a city organization chart in the window of his shop with the people on the top and the city manager,” noted Bobkiewicz, “on the bottom.”Jess, considered by many to be the voice of the people of Santa Paula, was a co-founder of Latino Town Hall.Robert Borrego and Jess were childhood friends: “I knew him, oh my gosh, when his father had the shoe repair shop. Jess and his brothers worked there, some of us young guys would stop by there” to visit and talk about community issues, a tradition carried on by Jess.“Jess was very honest, a very good friend” that Borrego said, “cared deeply for Santa Paula. He had a very strong empathy for the underprivileged, the less fortunate of our community.”Growing up during the Great Depression had a deep affect on many including, Jess and Borrego. “We saw much poverty, great pain and suffering. When we were kids we knew others” who were unable to get medical care, at times with fatal results.
“There were bread lines in town, no jobs, people were really hurting. Jess grew up in that environment, he saw that and it made a deep impression on him.”Jess’ deep Catholic faith was evident, and he “was always trying to help kids, encourage them to go and stay in school,” which Borrego said led to Jess’ appearances before area school boards, the last just several weeks before his passing. “Jess was a very warmhearted, compassionate guy who cared deeply about city government and schools. It was hard for him to accept the attitude of some people that don’t seem to have the kind of care he had for all people in town.”Borrego said his friend “was full of surprises with all the things he would come up with, ideas, plans... he always had some kind of project he wanted to get off the ground. He had a very good idea of what had to be done here, there and everywhere.”The City Council, often the target of Jess’ comments, in December 2007 honored him with a proclamation, noting his respect and support for working people, a dedication that led to him being honored as the first Grand Marshal of the Labor Day Parade. Jess was also honored in 2004 with the Latino Town Hall Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award, given to an outstanding individual who has worked to develop and improve the relationships within the community, and who recognizes the dignity and value of all people.“My passion in life was always life itself,” Jess said at the time he received the City Council proclamation. “My passion now is Santa Paula.”“We laughed a lot,” and Borrego said Jess “was just a wonderful person.”Jess is survived by son Anthony Victoria and wife Diana, grandsons Kyrlé, Gianni and Jaden, brothers Manuel Victoria and wife Connie, sister Yolanda Victoria, over 50 nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews, and countless cousins.