Named for Jesus Torrente Tabasa Jr. at birth, Jess passed away on Friday, March 25, 2022, in Santa Cruz, California. He was 83 years of age. He was born on November 6, 1938, in Watsonville Hospital to Jesus Torrente Tabasa and Rosita Carpio Dionisio. His parents operated the Oriental Cafe, which became the Philippine Gardens, was Jess’s other Watsonville family home for a while.
Raised in Watsonville, Jess attended these schools: Mintie White, E.A. Hall, and Watsonville High. Jess attended Monterey Peninsula College and graduated from San Francisco State College (after Jess received a college scholarship from the Filipino Community). After graduating, Jess joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served his country for 33 years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.
Jess participated in many local clubs and organizations. This included the Filipino Community of Watsonville and Caballeros de Dimas-Alang, a fraternal Filipino lodge, whose function was to assist the Filipino community and promote the Filipino culture. When Jess’s father passed away at age 55, Jess, at age 22, took on the huge responsibility of being a father figure and the big brother to his four young siblings as he was going to college and working at the same time. Jess put his heart and soul to make sure that his father’s responsibility of raising a family was fulfilled.
Jess was a teacher at E.A. Hall Junior High School in Watsonville until he retired (He received the Alumni Hall of Fame Award in 2014 for Outstanding Community Service). During his teaching career he was very active in the California Teachers Association and with the National Education Association. Jess also continued to remain active as Tri-County-President of the Monterey Bay Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society.
Jess’s passion during his retirement years was promoting the historical evolution of the Filipino culture within the context of American culture particularly in Northern and Central California. He was quite busy being a speaker to various groups and he truly enjoyed educating his diverse audience about the Filipino history and culture. Jess was a guest curator at the National Steinbeck Museum in Salinas. Jess also continued his community involvement by serving on the Asian Cultural Experience Board of Directors. In addition, Jess was a presenter for the Watsonville Agriculture Labor Bureau.
Jess is survived by his four siblings: Francine Tabasa-Lopes, Gregorio Tabasa, Susana Tabasa-Cruz and Danny Tabasa. Also, his nephew Edward Cruz; his nieces, Angela Cruz, and Nalani Kowalski. There are also other close relatives resign in Philippines, Hawaii, and California. Jess’s former wife, Myrna Burdick, formerly Myrna Tabasa continued to have a presence in his life along with many friends.
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