His Life

Ancestor Interview by Noah Hammond (year 2000)

Q: What is your name

A: Reyes Ortega Fernandez

Q: Where do you live?

A: Moorestown, NJ

Q: When were you Born?

A: January 6, 1919.  I am 81.

Q: How was school for you?

A: School was great, I loved it.  There was lots of math, reading and writing.  The school was a building with four rooms and we had classes in one room.

Q: Did you have any pets?

A: I had 1 dog and 2 cats.  The dog was a pointer and was a good hunter.  The cats were good mice hunters, and both cats lived outside.

Q: Did they have names?

A: The dog's name was Ambassador.

Q: What did you and your friends do for fun?

A: Mostly we played baseball, and swam in irrigation canals and rivers.

Q: Did you play any sports?

A: Football in high school, and I always played baseball.

Q: How did you celebrate holidays?

A: We did not celebrate much, holidays were plain & simple.  I was happy to get out of school, and played lots of games.  My favorite holiday was Christmas.

Q: How did you celebrate Christmas?

A: We had a big family meal, candy, fruits, and one present that all the kids could share.

Q: Did you ever fignt in a war?

A: Yes, World War II.  I was 2 years in Europe and 2 in the states, training.  The food was decent, but I did not like the army life.

Q: Describe your wedding?

A: It was a simple wedding, no celebrations, and just the wedding ceremony.

Q: Where and when did you get married?

A: September 15, 1950 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Q: How did you meet your wife?

A: I met her at a dance hall in Philadelphia.  The dance hall was called Wagner's.

Q: Who was your role model as a kid?

A: Joe DiMaggio, a great Yankee player in baseball.

Q: Did you have a best friend?

A: Frank and Mike.  They both were not very tall, and played baseball alot.

Q: What was it that you liked about Frank & Mike?

A: We were really good pals.  I like their families, and we played ball together.  We also went to school together, and we always looked out for each other.

Q: Did you and your friends ever get in trouble?

A: No, not really.

Q: When was your first date?

A: My senior prom with a girl named Josephine.

Q: What was your first car?

A: A 1940 Buick (black) with strait 8 cylinder.

Q: When did you get it, and how long did you have it?

A: In 1951.  I had it for about 2 years.

Q: What are your favorite hobbies?

A: Wood working mostly, making small pieces of furniture, and playing slot machines.

Q: What do you think was the greatest invention when you were growing up?

A: I think the TV and electronic microwave.

Q: Did you have any prized possessions?

A: Yes, my cap - a hat that was gray.

Q: Would you like to be a child my age? (12)

A: No, because then I wouldn't be who I am, and things would really change; so why bother?

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up on a farm in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I had lots of work and chores to do.  I did a lot of horseback riding, swimming, and played sports.

Q: What specific chores did you have? Which did you like or not like?

A: I had to water the horses and cows and feed all the animals on the farm.  I chopped wood too.  I liked them all, I guess.

Q: What were the names of your parents? What were they like?

A: My father's name was Jesus.  He was not very tall, and a very hard working man.  My mother's name was Josepha, and her nickname was Pepa.  She was a tall woman, and she stayed home raising all her children.

Q: What's the one thing you remember most about your father and mother?

A: My father always worked and found things to do 7 days a week.  I don't know why he never took time off?  My mother was a really good cook.  Everything she cooked tasted great.  She was the one in the family.

Q: Tell about your brothers and sisters.

A: I had 7 brothers and 6 sisters.  All were younger than I was, and most of them quit school and went to work instead.  All of them have made out O.K.

Q: Did you have a favorite brother or sister? Why?

A: My two older sisters always treated me nice.

Q: What were their names?

A: Amelia and Lupe.

Q: Tell about your grandparents.

A: My grandfather, my father's father, died a young man, and I never met him.  My other grandfather was a farmer and had a vineyard.  Grandmother Lupe, was real nice to me.  My other grandmother, Pancha, and her family were all farmers.

Q: How was grandmother Lupe nice to you?

A: She gave me treats everyday after school, and she was always nice to me and my brothers and sisters.  She never said a harsh word to us.

Q: What do you remember about Pancha?

A: She was blind and we always helped her to get here and there.  She was good to us too.

Q: Tell about your children.  How did having children change your life?

A: I had two daughters.  Having them taught me to care about other people more.

Q: Tell about your grandchildren.

A: I love my grandchildren.  I have two grandsons and one granddaughter.

Q: What was your profession?

A: A machinist. I did precision cutting and instrument reading.

Q: What company did you work for?

A: I worked for Ford, Reconditioned Motors and Parts.

Q: What was the most frightening thing that happened to you?

A: I got hit in the stomach with a line drive baseball.  I thought I was going to die from the blow.

Q: What was the most joyous thing that happened to you?

A: My first auto trip out west.

Q: What would you do it you hit the lottery?

A: I would share it with my family.  I would buy a new car, and put the rest away for a rainy day.

Tracking the Ancestral Family Tree

When Noah was in grade school he had to do a written report in which he interviewed a family member.  Noah interviewed Dad.  The following are dad's words written to Noah on note paper that explain his concept of his ancestral background.

"Tracking the Ancestral Family Tree requires a lot of time and research and if you don't have even a fraction of information you might as well give up.  The following is my concept of how my ancestors arrived at the Western Hemisphere or the New World you might say.  I truly believe that my ancestors (the Fernandez's) landed on the eastern shore of Mexico with the Expeditionary force of Hernando Cortez from Spain between 1500 and 1519.  After establishing Spanish authority and introducing Christianity, Cortez remained in Mexico until he was sure of success.  After so many years Cortez returned to Spain with some of his soldiers but alot of them decided to stay in the New World.  Among those that stayed I'm sure were more than one man with the name "FERNANDEZ".  The number of men that stayed was probably a few thousand.

Since they did not bring their wives they eventually married native Mexican women and the modern Mexican population was born.  Among those that stayed were Builders, Craftsman, Educators, Religious persons and others.  In a number of years the Spanish influence was well established throughout Mexico.  Not long after these Explorers moved North into the Territories of today's Texas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California.  The "Fernandez" family by now had grown.  One of these Families settled in New Mexico so briefly that's my Family Tree as I see it"

A little Background

Born 1919 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Reyes Ortega Fernandez was the first born son of 14 children;two sisters born before him- Guadalupe and Amelia. Growing up consisted of working on the farm, swimming in irrigation canals & rivers, horse back riding & playing baseball. Christmas was a big family meal; candy, fruit and one present that all the kids could share. After fighting in World War II, he returned from Europe to work in Philadelphia where he met his wife, Ruth, at Wagner’s Dance Hall. They moved to NJ & raised 2 daughters.