'He's the best man I've ever known' (video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 15, 2013 at 1:15 a.m.
BY THE NUMBER - FATHER'S DAY
1966: The year of the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers by President Lyndon Johnson, who designated the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.
1972: The year of the first annual Father's Day when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made the holiday permanent
70.1 million: Estimated number of fathers in United States
24.4 million: Number of fathers who were part of married-couple families with children younger than 18
1.96 million: Number of single fathers in 2012
7,368: The number of men's clothing stores around the country
15,542: The number of hardware stores around the country
21,418: Number of sporting goods stores
79.1 million: The number of Americans who participated in a barbecue in 2010, including Father's Day
Jose Partida leans back in his favorite recliner and jerks the footstool to a horizontal position.
A pale blue towel drapes across the back, and the 90-year-old Partida leans his head into the soft fabric.
He smiles and grazes his feeble hands across the fur of granddaughter Miracle's mild-tempered chihuahua, Lila.
Today, he's a happy man. Four generations of Partidas surround him in his favorite chair.
Po-Po, as they lovingly call him, is getting on in years.
He's a man of few words, but the ones he speaks are uplifting.
He spent his entire life caring for his family. Now, it's their turn to take care of him.
"He's special because he's a model father and husband. Men today aren't like him. He's the best man I've ever known," said daughter Gloria Alfaro, 61. "He always taught us to pick our battles and stick together and just pick the best road."
Partida never amassed wealth or fame.
He was born poor, his father died when he was about a year old. His mother gave him up for adoption. And he was abused for many years at the hand of several Partida family members.
"It was pretty rough for him," Gloria said, glancing at her father. "He was beaten for everything growing up, sometimes with horse whips, and it would make his legs bleed. No matter what happened, he always got punished for something."
Had he not suffered an abusive childhood, though, Gloria said he likely wouldn't have elevated the importance of a loving marriage or learn to become an example about not fighting and letting the small things go.
"He never got mad at us," Gloria said. "He would always say, 'Don't fight; it's not important.'"
Partida, then 18, married Jacinta Partida in Cordele when she was 15 years old. They courted for three years before they wed in 1941, a few weeks before he enlisted in the Army.
"I just told her to marry me, and as soon as I asked her, her family said she was my responsibility from now on," he said softly, remembering his late wife. "We never got to touch hands or kiss. We went together for three years, and I would only see her through the cracks of the homes."
The first wedding band he ever put on Jacinta's finger was a 10-cent ring at the 5 and 10 cent store in town. The last wedding ring cost more than $6,000.
He worked two and three jobs at a time when the children were growing up to make sure his wife and children were provided for.
"She was a good girl, a lovely girl. She treat me real nice," he said.
Jacinta died of cancer four years ago in a nursing home. They were married 67 years.
When Jacinta's health started failing, the family elected to move her into a nursing home, and Partida, not wanting to be away from his beloved, moved into the nursing home with her.
When she died, he remained at the nursing home for months to mourn and grieve in the room they shared together.
"They were always together. They would hold hands, and he would always carry her purse," said Partida's granddaughter Heather. "He babied her. He was very careful with her, and we miss those moments of seeing them together."
Partida completed the fifth grade, and Jacinta lived her entire life without learning to read or write. But they instilled in their children the value of education.
"Mom wanted us to get an education and get a career and be somebody. That was her worst regret, not finishing her education," Gloria said.
The couple had three children: Mary, Gloria and Joe Partida Jr.
Each of them went on to marry and start their own family, each of them taking cues from Partida's strong father and husband model.
"He was the ideal man, the perfect father. He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he loved my mother," Gloria said. "He worked so hard for us and never complained."
"Watching my grandparent's marriage made me realize the kind of marriage I wanted," Miracle said.
Gloria eventually brought her father to live with her, and he's visited often by family.
Though 90, he has learned to make brief calls on his flip phone Saturdays, the day he usually makes his rounds to let his children know he loves them.
Partida said his life has been full of love and happiness, and he wouldn't change anything about it.
"Everything would be the same," he said. "I want to live to be 100 if I could spend more time with my daughter and granddaughters."