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August 30, 2005 > The Leal Family

The Leal Family

by Marlene and Bernie Leal and Phil Holmes

The family of Antonio Silveira and Rosa Candida lived on the island of Faial, Azores, and attended the same church for generations. Their grandson, Joseph Silveira Leal was the first Leal to come to the U.S. He worked his way across the country to Mission San Jose where he eked out a living as a barber and sharecropper. He eventually saved enough to buy 27 acres near Mission San Jose.

In 1899, Joseph married Julia Perry, who also came from Faial. They lived on the ranch at the end of the road now called Castro Lane in a four-room home with no electricity, no indoor plumbing and spring water. A son, Joseph Clarence Leal, was born to the couple on September 7, 1900. He was to be their only child. Joseph and Julia worked hard raising cattle in the rough hilly area and growing and picking peas, potatoes and corn in the rolling hills. In the flatter land they grew a prune and apricot orchard and a small vineyard for wine making. Joseph had a fruit-cutting/drying shed and a prune processing operation. All this ground was worked with horses.

There was another small house and a barn on the eastern portion of the ranch. Julia's sister, Mary Perry Borge, and her husband set up housekeeping there in 1906 and raised a family; then Tony and Minnie Caldiera lived on this property for awhile. This part of the ranch was sold to Antonio Francisco and Alvino Santos on September 29, 1923.

Joseph and Julia sold a portion of the original property in 1923 and built a home on Mission Boulevard on the lower part of the ranch. This new stucco house, completed in 1925, was a beautiful home, an improvement over the smaller single-walled home on Castro Lane. It included a barn and a tank house with a windmill to pump water for the ranch. This is where the orchards were located.

When the depression and hard times hit, the family was forced to return to the smaller home in the canyon for a few years and rent the new home for much-needed income. It was a difficult transition for the family. Luckily, times got better and they were able to move back to the "new" stucco home in about 1944.

Joseph Clarence Leal met Bernice Costa at a Holy Ghost Festival in Mission San Jose. He was 27 and she was 17 when they married in 1927. They had two children, Bernadette and Bernardine, "Bernie."

Bernie and his sister Bernadette attended Washington High School in Centerville. Bernadette worked part time at Silveira's Feed Store as a bookkeeper. Before summer vacation, Bernie would leave school 2-3 weeks early to work each summer on the hay press, baling hay for the Joe Telles family. After graduation, Bernie was hired at Joe Costa's Dairy in Irvington making $1 an hour with no benefits. Six months later he was hired at Leslie Salt (now Cargill) and worked there in various positions culminating in his role as Assistant Plant Manager 37 years later. Bernie retired from Cargill in 1988.

In the late 1940's new neighbors, the Ivaldi's, moved two doors away from Bernie's grandparents. During summer vacation, their granddaughter, Marlene would visit her grandparents. Bernie had all kinds of reasons to go over to the Ivaldi's just so he could see Marlene. Such excuses as: "the cows got out and he had to look for them" or "the fence needed to be repaired." After a short time he ran out of reasons and just went over to see her. Marlene and Bernie dated about a year then married on April 26, 1952 at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Oakland.

The first year of the couple's marriage was spent in the same stucco home on Mission Boulevard that Bernie's mother and father started their marriage in years before. Bernie and Marlene's first daughter, Brenda, was born in this home and after a year, the little family moved to an apartment above the garage on the Ray Benbow property; rent: $75 a month.

After a couple of years at the apartment, Bernie and Marlene saved enough money to put a down payment on a new small four bedroom, two bath home on Durham Road, now called Osgood Road. The home in 1954 cost $9,900. Two other children, Janice and David were born there. After seven years, the family sold the Durham home and bought a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home on Trenouth Street, Fremont Fields tract, for $14,500. Their youngest daughter, Allison, was born there in 1963. The family lived at the Trenouth Street home for 30 years.

Bernie and Marlene's son, David, and his wife, also Marlene, bought the Trenouth home and lived there with their two children, Samantha and Daniel. Marlene Sr. worked as a manager for the San Jose College of Dental/Medical Assistants and for 17 years as an employee of the Fremont Unified School District. She spent her last 13 years as an administrative secretary with the Fremont-Newark Regional Occupational Program.

After Bernie's stepmother passed away, Marlene and Bernie moved back to the original ranch site on Mission Boulevard where they currently reside at the old home site on the upper portion of the ranch. After 53 years of marriage, Bernie and Marlene now spend their time raising cattle, helping neighbors during roundups, tending the vineyard and making award-winning Zinfandel wine. Both are active members of the Sons of Italy and the Olive Hyde Art Guild. The family enters a covered wagon, restored by Bernie and his son, David, in several local parades.

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