SOLEDAD — As the City of Soledad prepares for its centennial event, 2021 also marks the year one of its residents, Jennie Aquino, becomes a centenarian.
Aquino, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 27, was born in Mexico and came to the United States as a child, having lived in Soledad for most of her life.
Aquino is a Covid-19 survivor, having been hospitalized from Dec. 28 to Jan. 16, but she won her fight with the virus. She is currently back home and able to maneuver without the need of an oxygen mask.
Aquino has six children, David, Peter, Joey, Felisa, Sol and Sharon. Those children got to know their uncles Frank Ledesma and Joe Ledesma, as well as cousin Fred Ledesma, all of whom were past mayors in the city. She also has three sisters, Jovita Barajas, Felisa Pacheco and Frances Ledesma.
“You live in a small town and all of a sudden you realize you’re related to someone over here and over here,” said Felisa Hoogendyk. “It’s a big support system that you have.”
Hoogendyk noted the difficulty her mother faced with discriminatory laws from decades past.
“My mom and dad were not able to get married in California at the time because my dad was Filipino and my mother was considered white, and they did not acknowledge what they called a mixed marriage,” Hoogendyk said. “They had to go to Seattle to get married because that was point of entry for my dad. The same thing came with property. Their first home could not be in my father’s name and it had to be in my mother’s name.”
Due to complications caused by Covid-19, her hospital stay and following recovery time, Aquino hasn’t had a large celebration for her three-digit birthday.
“We weren’t able to celebrate because she was still not strong enough,” Hoogendyk said. “We’re still planning a celebration once this is all over. But at this time, my daughter Jill Hoogendyk made it a point to get 100 birthday cards to her.”
At the last count, Hoogendyk said there were 106 birthday cards sent to Aquino.
“People she didn’t know that were friends of family sent her cards and it was almost overwhelming for her,” Hoogendyk said.
Close behind Aquino in age is her sister, Frances, who is 91 and lives with her.
“These are two ladies who are tough as nails,” Hoogendyk said.
She said her mother is a warm person, and she cannot think of anyone who would speak badly of her because of her acceptance and sense of forgiveness.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Sol and left out David among the list of Aquino’s children. The Tribune regrets the errors.