February 14, 2006 > The John Gomes Family
The John Gomes Family
Manuel S. Silva came to the Fremont area from the Azores in the mid 1800s and worked on the John Stevenson ranch before acquiring property that stretched from Driscoll Road to the Western Pacific railroad and the Stivers-Marshall farm. He married Felicia Emillia Luna and they raised four daughters - Mary, Annie, Felicia and Louisa. Following the death of Manuel in 1884 and Felicia in 1895 the land went to three daughters who survived them.
Felicia, married Joseph Maciel and they had two daughters and one son. When Joe died, he left Felicia with the farm and their three young children. Felicia later married Manuel S. Gomes who had immigrated in 1871. In addition to operating the farm, Manuel had worked as a Hayward farmer, road master, and violinist prior to his death in 1927. The Gomes had two sons, Manuel and John, who grew up working on the farm and attending Irvington School.
As a teenager, working part-time at a local auto wrecking yard, John was allowed to take home spare parts from time to time. He eventually assembled the parts to make a Model T Ford, the first car his family owned. Planning to visit relatives, he drove his parents to San Luis Obispo in this car and while there, he met the girl who was to become his wife, Mary in 1932. Their daughter, Diane, became a teacher and taught 34 years for the Fremont Unified School District.
Mary was a real partner with John in the operation of the farm. She ran the chicken business, drove truck and hauled eggs to market at Hayward. She was also the bookkeeper and an excellent cook.
John was only 17 when his father died, leaving him with the responsibility of both the farm and his mother. In order to maintain the farm during the Great Depression he worked as a box maker for Garin Box Company and also as a mechanic for Schuckles Cannery in both Niles and Sunnyvale.
In his earlier years, John worked the fields with a horse, adding tractors, a harvester, and other pieces of equipment as conditions allowed. Besides the home place on Driscoll Road, he farmed the Glenmoor area, the Durham School area and other farms in Tracy. His crops included wheat, barley, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli and green beans. He even had his own packing shed for preparing produce for market. He sold the ranch in 1964 and retired from farming but kept in contact with other farmers by working each fall as a Field Representative for Hunt-Wesson Cannery.
Music was a special joy to John, which he enjoyed all of his life. He was the snare drummer for the Centerville Marching Band for over 40 years, playing for many festivals and parades. John was a lifelong supporter of the Fremont Concert Band and actively promoted music education in area schools.
As a young man, John loved baseball and played for various local teams. He also enjoyed duck hunting with friends, and in later years he liked to go fishing with his wife, Mary.
John demonstrated his belief in contributing to the quality of life in the community by volunteering his time and energy in public service. He was a member of the Irvington School Board for 17 years, from 1947 to 1964 when the district unified to become part of the Fremont Unified School District. During this time the district grew from 275 to 9,250 students in 16 schools. As a member of the school board, John was always available to teachers and other district employees and officials who often sought his consul at his home or while he was out in the fields.
John was also a volunteer fireman for the Irvington Fire Department for 10 years, a director of the Irvington District Bank of America, a member of the Fremont Flood Control Advisory Board, Fremont Rotary and St. Joseph's Catholic Church. John was appointed to the Alameda County Water District Board of Directors in 1966. During his 13 years of service, the district installed a water softening plant, a Fabridam on Alameda Creek, built several reservoirs, secured Hetch Hetchy water, began a fluoridation program, added Citizens Utility Co. and protected the underground water basin. His contribution was recognized and praised when he retired from the board.
John and Mary's daughter, Diane, married Edmond Leys who also established their home in Fremont. Diane has lived all of her life on the Gomes farm except for those years she was away in school.
John Richard Gomes died in 1984. He left a legacy of service, care and concern for his family, friends and community. Those who knew him said, "He was a very compassionate, personable man. He never met a stranger." Gomes School, Gomes Park and Gomes Road were named in his honor.