Landscapes 15

Ruben David De La Rosa

April 13, 1923 ~ June 26, 2020 (age 97)


Born in Fresno, the eldest of seven children, to Rafael and Neftalid De La Rosa, Ruben lived a full life centered around family. He died quietly surrounded by his sisters, children and grandchildren. Ruben joins his wife Anna, the love of his life to whom he was married 70 years. Ruben is survived by three siblings, Aurora D. Martinez, Mary Ellen Pandolfi, and Richard X. De La Rosa; his three children, Linda Higgins (Mark), Raul, Lou (Mary); nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He joins three brothers who died before him, Gilbert, Ralph and Carl.

Ruben had a multi-faceted personality that those close to him knew well. He could be the jovial life of the party yet he could fall asleep at the drop of a hat (“Wake me when the light turns green”); a merciless teaser but the first to laugh at himself; a stern taskmaster but an untiring worker; generous to a fault one moment and thrifty beyond measure the next; stubborn when he thought himself right but forgiving of all but himself; and he was strict in religious observation to the point of shunning fasting exceptions for elderly…primarily because he didn’t consider himself to be old. He was young at heart, and always up for new experiences.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Ruben saw his father Rafael lose his business and house. His father took to the road as a traveling salesman catering to the migrant population of the Central Valley. Ruben joined his father on many treks up and down the Central Valley as an adolescent. He shared many stories of his father, admiring his ingenuity and generosity in the face of hard times. During his travels all over the state, Rafael came upon the quiet, rural town of San Jose. He told his wife Neftalid she would like it, so she agreed to move their family there, sight unseen, in the mid-1930’s. Ruben attended Gardner Elementary, Herbert Hoover Jr. High, San Jose High, and San Jose Technical High School.

Over the years Rafael & Neftalid established themselves in the Downtown San Jose business community with a grocery store and a curio shop: De La Rosa’s Latin American Imports. Ruben did work around the stores, but preferred building to customer service. He learned furniture millwork in school and his work ethic caught the eye of a family friend, Moses Rosendin, who hired him to sweep the floor after school. Following an early graduation so he could join the service against his mother’s wishes, Ruben volunteered for the Army Air Corps in December 1942. When the recruiter asked where he wanted to go, Ruben said, “As far away as I can; I want to see the world.” He entered the service with a goal to be a pilot, but once the War Department determined they had enough pilots to win the war, he went to school with the Signal Corps where he learned communications. After his service as a radio operator in a B-24 stationed in Hawaii, he returned to his home in San Jose. Upon his return, he continued college which he had begun in Hawaii, and resumed his job at Rosendin Electric.

As he was attending San Jose State College, he met Anna Marie Garcia on a blind date with his brother Gil and then-girlfriend Phyllis, who was Anna’s best friend. They hit it off well and he courted Anna who lived in South San Francisco; a trek of more than forty miles in the days before freeways. After a lengthy courtship, they were married on September 19, 1948. The funny and sweet stories of their courtship and marriage could fill a book.

Their marriage bore three children: Linda and Raul in quick succession, and Lou eight years later. The post-war years presented opportunities for relaxation for Ruben and Anna to an extent which their parents had not enjoyed. Their early years were spent taking weekend trips to Las Vegas, driving all night after work on a Friday, seeing shows and gaming, then driving home in time for work on Monday; and frequent trips to Lake Tahoe with friends including their brothers and sisters. Later, family vacations to Yellowstone, Yosemite and Disneyland entertained one and all. In 1970, the family jetted to the East Coast to tour Williamsburg, Washington DC, New York, and more. More trips ensued, thanks to airline passes via Linda, to Hawaii, Mexico, all over the US, Europe (at least 13 times), Israel & Egypt, Yugoslavia and Russia during communism, and cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, down the Rhine and Danube Rivers, and much more.

Ruben never worked for any company other than Rosendin. He quickly rose from apprentice to foreman. In the early 1970’s, thanks to his work ethic and ability to work with many different personalities, he experienced a series of quick promotions from foreman to general foreman to superintendent. After more than 25 years in the field, and without having completed his bachelor’s degree, he was invited to work in the office and learn the skills of an estimator. He worked alongside electrical engineers, the only one without a degree, and became a project manager. Over the years he worked on countless buildings across the Bay Area and Central Valley, including classified projects at Lockheed, Ames Research, and the 10-foot telescope building at Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton. He was very proud of his work, and many Sunday drives after church were spent driving by the jobs he was working on, with a running commentary, “I wired that job,” all along the way.

Ruben remained employed until his retirement in July 1996, the longest-serving employee in the 100-year history of Rosendin Electric. He was honored to be asked out of retirement to supervise the new construction of the company headquarters while in his seventies. Although he was proud of his work, his greatest pride was his family.

Ruben and Anna insisted on caring for their grandchildren, rather than having them go to daycare as their parents worked. They extended that to their great-grandchildren as well, building memories for them all that few are privileged to have. In the end, both Ruben and Anna were surrounded by a loving family as they left this world. Though sad, their family is joyful that they are together once again embarking on yet another new adventure.


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