1995 Inductee - Irene Andes

1995 Inductee - Irene Andes

Community Involvement/Women’s Issues

Irene Andes was born in Jackson, California, on Christmas Eve, 1941, the fourth of nine sisters and one brother. Her father worked in the gold mines before moving to Stockton to work in the shipyard during World War 11. Her family lived in a two bedroom house in Boggs Tract where a combination of roll-away, fold –out and bunk-beds accommodated the family, who became very close. Irene remembers Boggs Tract, an ethnically diverse community, as having an extended family atmosphere. An example of this was when the neighborhood learned of the first family to have a TV set.

Everyone brought their chairs and blankets to the front lawn of the house and watched the images flicker across the small screen and strained to hear the sound through the open window. Irene once stated, “You could be in anyone’s house and you were offered a taco or tortilla.” Even today all those who grew up in that neighborhood remain very close and dear friends.

On the walk home from St. Mary’s Church, on Sundays and after catechism, Irene would stop at the Chinese markets to look at the pressed ducks hanging in the window and buy a salty, dried, sour plum from the big jar on the counter, which she savored all the way home. Irene, her mother, and her elder sisters drove or rode the labor bus to the islands in the early darkness of summer mornings to top onions, cut seed potatoes, or pick tomatoes. The rides were always accompanied by Norteno music blaring from the radio. (To this day Irene remains not too fond of Norteno music.)

Irene has always drawn on the strength of her family and community to nurture her in her quest for equal rights for all. She never forgot the struggles her forefathers and foremothers went through to bring her to where she is today. While raising three children, Michael, Christine and Paul, Irene worked in various business offices at St. Joseph’s Hospital and worked in the family heating and air conditioning business with her late husband, Ben. Early involvement in the church, where she and Ben started the annual New Year’s fun raising dance, and her work in the Jack and Jill co-op nursery school progressed to volunteer office work at the United Farm Workers Union office in the late 1960’s, where she also collected and prepared food for striking farm workers.

Over the years, Irene has served as a board member and/or an officer of the Concilio, Catholic Charities, Hispanics for Political Action, the Comision Feminil Mexicana Nacional, the Amigas Unidas, Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association and the Stockton Human Rights Task Force. She was elected to the County Democratic Central Committee and appointed to the County Affirmative Action Committee and the United Way Program Review Committee. With three other women, she formed a committee to lobby for increased minority representation in the redistricting which occurred after the 1990 census. Their efforts resulted in a redistricting of Stockton School Trustee areas which led to the election of the first Latina Stockton School Board Member.

Irene helped coordinate support for the Diamond Walnut strikers and marched in the final leg of the Cesar Chavez Memorial March in 1994 as well as Cesar’s funeral march in Delano. In 1990, she proposed and spearheaded the first mailing of an election slate card to more than 13,000 Latino voters in San Joaquin County by Hispanics for Political Action. She participated in Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition in the 1988 election, and has worked on innumerable election campaigns over the years. Irene was a 1992 recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award by the San Joaquin County Commission on the Status of Women.

She is admired for her strong convictions and zeal in approaching the issues which she feels are of utmost importance. A recent example of this was her leadership in the fight against the discriminatory eviction of Antonio’s Restaurant from the Warehouse. Likewise, her outrage at the use, by a local school, of a survey asking school children to list immigrant groups that they did not like, prompted her to go to the school to protest the survey and demand that the school authorities take action to remedy the damage the survey had done to the immigrant children who had been named by their classmates.

The fight for human rights and a sense of community is a primary motivation for what Irene has done. Irene passed away on December 23, 1995.