John Joseph Alvarado: 1933-2016

John Joseph Alvarado was born October 10, 1933, on Dana Ranch outside Guadalupe. His father worked as a sharecropper/ranch foreman, and his mother was a housewife. The Alvarado family spans seven generations in Santa Barbara County. John’s grandfather Andres Alvarado passed away in Santa Barbara in 1921. His grandmother Isabel Alvarado passed away in 1941 and is buried at the Santa Inés Mission. Both his parents, Feliciano (1988) and Vicenta Ramos Alvarado (1994), are buried in Guadalupe, along with two of their nine children: John’s sister Isabel Perez and younger brother Lawrence Alvarado.

<strong>ROOTS:</strong> John Alvarado, a fifth-generation Santa Barbaran, is pictured here at age 18.
Courtesy Photo

John enjoyed a rambunctious childhood, playing sports, working, and earning a wage at a young age. He attended schools throughout the county, including La Cumbre Junior High and Santa Barbara High School. From 1953-1955, he served in the United States Army during the Korean War and received a National Defense Service Medal. His platoon was featured in the Audie Murphy film To Hell and Back. After the army, John studied business at Allan Hancock College.

He married Romelia Natalia Hidalgo in 1956 in Guadalupe. First working as a farm inspector and warehouse supervisor in Santa Maria, by the early 1960s John had bought his first home and taken on extra work at Wilson-McMahon’s Furniture Store. He eventually became the store’s sales manager. By the mid-1960s, the Wilson-McMahon team asked John to travel as far as Juneau, Alaska, to open new stores as the business expanded. He even moved his growing family to Seattle for a brief spell to open a new store.

In 1967, John brought his family back to California and was asked to manage the Wilson-McMahon store in Santa Barbara, which later became Fiesta Furniture. From 1975-1980, John ran his own store, the Santa Barbara Sleep Center. During his time selling furniture, he assisted many low- to moderate-income families by helping them establish credit so they could have suitable furniture and beds in their homes. To this day, people come up to his children and remember his kindness. John also donated furniture to La Casa de la Raza in Santa Barbara when it first opened its doors to the community.

For the remainder of his professional career, John went into car sales, working at dealerships from Santa Maria up to Roseburg, Oregon. John loved living in Oregon. The scenic outdoors reminded him of his train rides from Guadalupe to Fort Ord during his army hitch.

John became a cancer patient in 2012 and moved back to Santa Maria. He was given six months to live, but his will to stay alive amazed his doctors. He lived independently until he was deemed terminally ill in January of this year.

Over the years, John built up a community of friends and family. We admired his sharp sense of dressing and for being a man of his word.

John was a giant jazz music collector and probably owned one of the most personal and comprehensive collections. But it was his love for the Dave Brubeck Quartet that defined his admiration for the music. If you were lucky enough to get trapped in a room with John, jazz, and bottle of wine, you were in for a music appreciation class. John also connected with the voice of Ray Charles. There was something inside John that Ray Charles could soothe with his music.

John was also a huge sports fan. He loved to talk about the 1949 CIF Champion Santa Barbara High football team with great Dons like Eddie Mathews, Donny Yee, and Alex Bravo. A fan of the L.A. Rams and Dodgers, he loved going to the L.A. Coliseum and Dodger Stadium to see his favorite players. He was like a little kid every time he went to a game. John cherished his friendship with Laker great Bill Bertka, who coached Allan Hancock College to a state basketball title in 1959 with his friend John Rudometkin playing center. His children could count on their father to be there to watch them play basketball, Little League baseball, and youth football in high school and in college.

John loved his friendships with his boyhood friends in Guadalupe: Joe Telogen, Father Roy Antunez, David Sanchez, Virgil Veglia, Carlos Buentiempo, and Frank Almaguer. He also loved to talk about all his compadres in Santa Barbara who started the original Cachuma Trout Derby and the Boys Club Alumni. John also left a crew of friends up in Oregon, who came to know and love him very much.

John is survived by his sisters Petra Alvarado, Jessie Bourbon, Francis Rodriguez, Nena Alvarado, Perfecta Casey, Suca Victorino, and his little brother, Andy Alvarado. John is also survived by numerous cousins from both the Alvarado and Ramos families. But he specifically built lasting relationships with his boyhood cousins Nati Ramos, Chuy Briones, Ernie Zavala, and Chano Alvarado. John was equally proud of his cousin Nati Romo’s son and former Santa Barbara City College president, John Romo.

John and Romelia had four children, whose success and professional careers were a great source of pride: Dr. Jonathan Alvarado (Beth Benjamin), who is assistant vice chancellor at University of Nebraska-Omaha; Nathan Alvarado (Linda Alvarado), who is a senior vice president with Wells Fargo Bank; Adriana Alvarado, who is a program director for Alameda County Public Health; and Mark Moses Alvarado (Anna Pilhoefer), who is a senior supervisor for the City of Santa Barbara. John loved to brag about all of his children and grandchildren graduating from college. He is survived by five grandchildren: Andrew, Lauren, Isabel, Ian, and Sofia.

The soul and spirit of John Alvarado left us on February 23, 2016. John was a very independent man and lived a full life. It was often said that he was a special man as he worked hard and played hard. His special faith in God and the spirit world touched many people over his 82 years on earth. His passing comes with honor and dignity. Thank you, John, for your time on earth, and may your soul enjoy peace in heaven.

A Memorial Celebration for John Joseph Alvarado will be held Sunday, March 20, at 1 p.m. at the Moose Lodge, 110 West Victoria Street. Food, music, no-host bar.


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