Mother to a musical legacy, Cleo Evita Renteria Escovedo died Saturday Dec 12th. She was 94. The long time resident of Chula Vista, Escovedo died at The Manchester Residential Care in San Jacinto, California.
Interment will be at Glen Abbey Mortuary in Bonita, where she will join her late husband of 46 years marriage, Pedro B. Escovedo.
Born in San Marcos, Texas, August 21st, 1921 her father Tiburcio and mother Ciria owned the town’s general store. Cleo was the fifth child out of 13 brothers and sisters. After graduating from Business College she worked at Kelly AFB. She later served as a secretary to a general at The Pentagon during World War II. Cleo always spoke of one of her proudest moments helping the Orange County campaigns for John F Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. JFK wrote a letter thanking her for helping him get to the White House.
Two of her sisters worked as riveters during the war and her youngest brother Carlos served on Air Force one to Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon, and provided security for Bobby and Ted Kennedy during flights.
Her brother Carlos tells the story of “a cool young man from Oklahoma” who asked their father if he could marry Cleo before he shipped out to fight in World War II. Knowing the dangers, he said “no, wait until you come back to get married,” but despite her father’s objections, Cleo married Army Private Alfred A. Atchley as he shipped off for what would become D-Day. Atchley died serving the90th Infantry Division, 358th Infantry Regiment in France and is buried in the Netherlands.
Cleo Escovedo eventually joined her sisters in the Bay area where she met Pedro Escovedo who was supervising the repair of war ships at the time. Pedro and Cleo married in 1946. A few years later, the Escovedos travelled to San Antonio, Texas, where she gave birth to her first four children Alejandro, Esmeralda, Adelicia and Javier. The Escovedos then moved to California and purchased their first home in Santa Ana where their youngest son Mario was born. The family then moved to Huntington Beach and finally settled in Chula Vista in 1971. Cleo also welcomed and loved many of Pedro’s six children from a previous marriage; Manuel, Jay, Alice, Pete, Robert, Thomas, and Later Phillipe joined the family. It was always a full house in the early years and Pedro would often show up with a new van and take the family on getaways.
The Escovedos have a number of musicians in the family from percussionists Pete and the Late Coke Escovedo who both played with Santana, and Azteca; Americana artist Alejandro Escovedo also of The Nuns, Rank and File, and True Believers. Javier Escovedo started one of The First California Punk bands The Zeros. And youngest brother Mario formed the Rock band The Dragons. Pete’s children Sheila E., Peter Michael Escovedo, and Juan Escovedo and Thomas’s son Paris Escovedo are all celebrated percussionists in their own right.
Pedro and Cleo loved going to see everyone perform and she loved to cook for all their band mates as they passed through on tour. The two loved to entertain and host a house full of friends and musicians. She was a great cook and the house would fill with sounds of music and the flavors of great Mexican dishes. At the end of the night time and time again, Pedro would sing to her the Mexican love song “Solamente Una Vez”. It became their song and Pedro’s enthusiasm and love made up for a few “pitchy notes” in his performance.
The two also owned a vacation house in Rosarito, Mexico where they would spend countless summers with the kids and every September in their later years host a family reunion of sorts. An Escovedo family gathering could easily turn into an impromptu concert.Alejandro Escovedo “I have this wonderful memory of my mother. We would spend as much time as we could in Rosarito Beach in Baja California, she was always taking in the kids who lived along the beach and giving them clothes or small chores to do around the house. At the end of those hot summer days she would set up a bbq pit on the beach and start to cook hamburgers for the kids who rented horses and anyone else that might happen upon our little tribe of beach bums. Those hamburgers were the best food I have ever tasted and those memories are some of my most treasured.
I hope my parents are dancing together like they did when my brothers and sisters were young and we would watch with amazement and a feeling that everything was good in the world. I love you.”
Cleo is survived by her Five Children; Alejandro, Esmeralda (Dolly), Adelicia (Cookie), Javier, and Mario.
Pedro’s Children; Manuel, Jay, and Peter.
Cleo Evita Renteria Escovedo’s brothers and sisters:
Celia 1915-2006, Dominga (Beatrice) 1917-1995, Tiburcio (Bucho) 1918-1994, Enrique (Henry) 1919-1976, Cleotilda (Cleo Evita) 1921-2015, Ciria Aurora, Robert 1924-2011, Alicia, Sabino (Richard), Guillermo Carlos 1930-1931, Amalia (Molly), Jose (Joe), Carlos Martin.