Saturday, June 6, 2015

Uncle Joe DeTevis

Just a month before I was hoping to visit my Great-Uncle Joe DeTevis in Seattle, the younger brother of my late Grandma Rise passed away following a short battle with cancer.
Joe DeTevis 
I’m glad he’s not suffering more. But I really hoped to see him during an upcoming vacation we have planned.

When my Dad reminded me that his Uncle Joe was living in Seattle with his daughter, Jeannette, the wheels in my mind started spinning. Uncle Joe had done some genealogy research once upon a time. He was the one member of the family who kept in touch with everyone else. And he was great at writing and documenting photos he sent periodically to family members.

I would have loved an hour or two with Uncle Joe to hear his stories. I had not seen him in decades. I received cards from him for special occasions, including his water-color paintings he sent to family. I know I received one for our wedding in 1996, but I wish I knew where it was. I did find one painting from 2001.

In addition to the desire to talk to Uncle Joe, I also had a request I wanted to run by him. I wanted to ask him if he was willing to participate in a genetic DNA study. He was one of the last DeTevis men descending from his father, Antonio DeTevis.

My DeTevis roots descend from the Azore Islands, part of Portugal, in the early 1800s. My Great-Grandfather spoke Portuguese, and there is little doubt that the history is accurate. But I wanted to know the DNA of the DeTevis family.

When I found out a few months ago that Uncle Joe was sick, I decided not to pursue the DNA test. I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But I still hoped to visit him. Unfortunately, he died while in hospice last week. My Dad had the opportunity to talk to him and say goodbye about 30 minutes before he passed away.

Ironically, I received a photo of Uncle Joe and Jeannette from another cousin in California with whom I was trading e-mails about the DeTevis family. That cousin, Ceferino Ahuero, contacted me the day before. As we traded e-mails, I was pleasantly surprised to get some photos of Uncle Joe. Later that evening, my Dad told me about Uncle Joe’s passing. When I passed the information to Cef, he pointed out that he has received similar news all too often about relatives.

I believe the last time I heard from Uncle Joe was a phone call he made to me when I worked in the Governor’s Office in Santa Fe. He called to tell me his grandson was working at Tomasita’s Restaurant. Apparently Uncle Joe’s daughter, Jeannette, is married into the family that owns the popular Santa Fe restaurant. I promised to do so, and figured it was an easy promise to keep since my wife loves to eat at Tomasita’s. But I never made it, which I now regret.

I did meet two of Uncle Joe’s grandsons a few years later when my Grandma Rise – Joe’s sister – died in Albuquerque. They attended the funeral. I understand one is in the Air Force, and the other lives in Seattle.

While I had not seen Uncle Joe for many years, I’d like to assume he lived a happy life. At least he always seemed happy from the photos and letters he shared. His wife, Ruth Nuthall, was a native of Sweden. She died in 2010 in Uvalde, TX, where they lived for many years. Uncle Joe and Aunt Ruth were married in 1959 in Modesto, CA.

Uncle Joe was born Jose Domingo DeTevis in Las Vegas in 1929 as the son of Antonio DeTevis and Emilia Alires. I assume he was named after Emilia’s father, Domingo Alires.
Joe DeTevis
Like his older brother, Joe served in the military – in the late 1940s and early 1950s during the Korean War. My Dad recalled his Uncle Joe working as a military journalist in Europe during the war. Perhaps that’s what motivated him to write, photograph and chronicle his comings and goings in his 60 years after the war.

I found a notice in the Las Vegas Optic that mentioned Joe was spending his furlough in his hometown.
Jeannette with her father, Joe DeTevis 2015
My Dad also remembers that Joe worked as a radio announcer at KFUN during college, where he earned his degree in art. He moved to Iowa and worked as a high school art teacher. He later taught in Visalia, CA, where he met his future wife, Ruth, who was working as a nurse. They had one daughter, Jeannette, and moved to Carrizozo, NM, where he also taught art. That’s where I remember getting cards and photos from him. After he retired, he and Aunt Ruth moved to Uvalde, TX, where Aunt Ruth died in 2010. Joe’s sister, Jane, helped move him to Seattle after that, where he stayed with his daughter.

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