Login to Claremont COURIER

Beatrice T. Hernandez

Mother, interpreter, menudo maven

Beatrice T. Hernandez, a longtime Claremont resident, died on October 25, 2012. She was 90.

Mrs. Hernandez was born on May 3, 1922 in Pineland, Texas, the third of 12 children. Her father, Refugio Terrazas, had been born in Chihuahua, Mexico, while her mother Elvira was a south Texas native

When she was a teen, she attended a church bazaar on the other side of town with her sister and a mutual friend. Mrs. Hernandez, attractive and, at 5’8”, noticeably tall for a Mexican girl at the time, caught the eye of Joseph A. Hernandez, who was there hanging out with his buddies. A courtship ensued, with Mr. Hernandez, who attended a local Catholic School, driving to El Paso High School to visit her, often taking a carload of friends along for the ride. They began teasingly calling her “Bibi.”

Shortly after they both graduated from high school in 1941, Mr. Hernandez married his beloved Bea. At age 21, the couple left for southern California in search of greater opportunity. In 1943, they arrived in Azusa, where Mr. Hernandez was a mechanic in the local citrus groves before being hired by Lockheed. While Mr. Hernandez worked building planes and, for a time during World War II, served in the US Army, Mrs. Hernandez stayed home, caring for a growing family. Eventually, the Hernandez family boasted 7 boys and 5 girls, a ratio that amused Mrs. Hernandez since she grew up in a family of 7 girls and 5 boys. 

In 1950, Mr. Hernandez purchased a mixed-use home on Foothill Boulevard. Once a mortuary, the property became the headquarters for both the teeming Hernandez family and Mr. Hernandez’s first entrepreneurial endeavor, Joe’s Plumbing. There were 2 large doors, one used by the family and another that served as an entrance for clients and employees. The latter included Mrs. Henandez, who served as a shrewd office manager.

Mr. Hernandez was notably ambitious. Along with becoming a master plumber, he, after some time, added the titles of general contractor, realtor and, eventually, Azusa City Councilman to his resume. Caring for a dozen kids while working was a challenge but it was one Mrs. Hernandez was up for.

“She just was so proud of having such a large family,” her daughter, Margie Hernandez, said.

Mrs. Hernandez was a skilled cook who was famous for her tacos and enchiladas, her fresh salsa and the savory menudo she prepared every Christmas and Easter.

“I remember riding my bike home from Our Lady of the Assumption,” her son George recalled fondly. “I could smell my mom’s cooking all the way up Scripps—even from around the corner, you knew something was going on.”

On Sundays, Mrs. Hernandez mustered the entire family for church, with the boys in suits and the girls in dresses. The kids’ grooming was expected to be impeccable, from shipshape haircuts to freshly-shined shoes. “It was no joke,” George said. “I remember my mom grabbing my brothers and me and putting Jergen’s lotion all over our faces.”

Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez didn’t have the opportunity to attend college themselves, but they aimed high when it came to their children’s education. The Hernandez brood attended an array of fine Catholic schools, including

Our Lady Queen of Angels seminary, Damien, Bishop Amat, St. Lucy’s and Pomona Catholic Girls High School. Later, they would go on to earn degrees at colleges like USC, Pepperdine, St. Mary’s College, Loyola Marymount, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of San Diego, San Francisco State, the University of Santa Clara and the University of La Verne. The family also counts a retired police officer and 2 firefighters among its ranks.

While her children were in school, Mrs. Hernandez was heavily involved in their activities, from their respective PTAs to cheerleading to many, many sports. Mrs. Hernandez was in the audience or the bleachers for as many school happenings as possible, according to her children.

“My mom never stopped moving, really. She was always picking up kids, dropping off kids, going to the store, cleaning the house, or volunteering somewhere,” her son George recalled. “She also loved to talk to her friends on the phone, catching up.”

In the summertime, the family caught up with their Texas relatives, piling into the station wagon and driving at night to beat the heat. Once they arrived in El Paso, the Hernandezes would often stay for weeks at a time. All but 2 of her siblings still lived in El Paso, and Mrs. Hernandez relished spending time with her mother, her brothers and sisters and numerous nieces and nephews.

It was a much-deserved rest for a hardworking family marked by an entrepreneurial spirit. When they resided in Azusa, Mr. Hernandez would set up a rented soda machine on the porch during the annual Golden Days parade, where passersby could stop by to buy a cool drink. Once Mr. Hernandez became involved in real estate, he would often turn a parcel of land he had invested in into a Christmas tree lot, ensuring extra money and a fine Christmas tree.

The Hernandezes weren’t afraid of change. In 1966, after the family’s Azusa home was razed by a fire, they gamely relocated to Claremont. Her children recall that their new neighbors were amazed that someone as slender and pretty as Mrs. Hernandez could have 12 children. As the largest family among the parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, the newcomers achieved a bit of celebrity.

And Mrs. Hernandez, who—as her son George recalled, “wasn’t lacking in confidence”—also wasn’t afraid to embark on new endeavors.

In 1973, Mrs. Hernandez, then 51, got her realtor’s license. After Mr. Hernandez died in 1974, she realized she needed a new source of income, considering that 6 of their children were still in school—3 in college, one in high school and the twin boys, Jim and John, in 8th grade. When a friend who had become a court interpreter suggested Mrs. Hernandez give it a try, she headed for Cal State San Bernardino and became certified as an interpreter.

As a girl, Mrs. Hernandez spoke Spanish in her El Paso home. At school, by contrast, the students were forbidden from speaking anything but English. Thus, she came to speak both languages flawlessly. Over the years, she lent her translation skills to the Whittier location of the California Unemployment Division, to her son Richard’s West Covina law office, and as a volunteer interpreter for the Claremont Police Department, the emergency room of the Pomona Valley Hospital, and the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Thrift Store in Upland.

From 1988 to 2002, she ran her own business, the Beatrice Hernandez-Brown Interpreting Service, helping Spanish-speakers communicate during worker’s compensation hearings.

Along with a second career, Mrs. Hernandez got a second chance at love when she met Bernard Brown at a supper club in Rialto, known for its live Big Band and swing music. Then in her 60s, she would head for the club with a group of friends, dressed to the nines and prepared to cut a rug. Sometimes they would get there early so Mrs. Hernandez’s friends could take dance lessons.

Mrs. Hernandez needed little instruction, her daughter Margie Hernandez shared, emphasizing that “The woman was a great dancer.” Mrs. Hernandez, who always rushed to the dance floor at weddings and other festivities, was often called upon as a partner while the instructor demonstrated moves like the foxtrot. She married Mr. Brown in 1982 and they lived happily together until he died in 2006.

Mrs. Hernandez will be remembered for the pride she took in her appearance, which prompted her to get her hair done weekly until shortly before she died and to always dress nicely, complete with stockings and heels. She will also, her family said, be remembered for her indomitable intelligence. Mrs. Hernandez insisted on being up on the latest news, and loved devouring an assortment of publications from cover-to-cover, including the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the COURIER and the Tidings Catholic newspaper. She was also an avid follower of TV news. 

Most of all, Mrs. Hernandez will be remembered for her warmth and grace, her children said.

“She loved to laugh and she was very social. She really could just do it all,” her daughter Margie said.

Mrs. Hernandez was preceded in death by her first husband, Joseph A. Hernandez, in 1974; by her second husband, Bernard Brown, in 2006; by her siblings, Alfredo Barrera, Mary Rivera, Estella Park, Richard Terrazas, Rosendo Terrazas, Carmen Cox, Alice Macias and (infant) Alice Terrazas; and by 2 grandchildren, Linda Hernandez Vaca and Roger John Hernandez. 

Mrs. Hernandez is survived by her sister, Bertha Collins of Houston, Texas; by her brothers, Manuel Terrazas of El Oaso, Texas and Refugio Terrazas of Kingsville, Texas; by her 12 children, Joseph Jr., Arthur, Richard, Helen, Alice, Mary Anne, Beatrice (“Bibi”), Anthony, Marguerite, George, John and James; by 31 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren; and by an array of nieces and nephews.

Mrs. Hernandez had 2 requests for her funeral, that she be buried in Claremont and that the traditional mariachi song “Amor Eterno” (“Eternal Love”) be played at the reception. The family is happy to be able to fulfill both requests

A Rosary for Ms. Hernandez will be held at Our Lady of Assumption Church, located at 435 N. Berkeley Ave. in Claremont, on Tuesday, November 13 at 7 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at OLA the next day, Wednesday, November 14, at 11 a.m., followed by interment at Oak Park Cemetery. Afterward, friends and family are invited to a reception at the home of John Hernandez.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in the name of Beatrice Hernandez to Our Lady of the Assumption.

Current Issue
Archived Print Issues