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Gone Too Soon

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

I imagine we all have ancestors or family members that we wish we could still pick up the phone and talk to. Whether they died hundreds of years ago or just yesterday, at a young age or at one hundred, when the desire to speak with someone strikes, their departure always feels too soon. And just like that, we're on Week 9 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge and the prompt is, "Gone Too Soon."


On 12 January 1952, Albert Garcia Jr., his wife, Avila Landavazo Garcia, and their children, Nancy (age 8), Bertha (age 6), Ronald (age 3), and Raymond (age 2) were together in their home in Albuquerque's North Valley, which they had just moved into a week before.¹ Albert had taken the day off work from his job at Ray Barker Motor Company to finish moving the young family into their new home.²

The weather report suggests it was a cloudy evening with lows in the mid to low 30s.³ It was a relatively chilly night in the desert southwest. The family must have struggled to warm their new home. Cracking a single kitchen window just about one and a half inches, the family ran their ventless gas heater at full blast in a front room, turned on the burners on the kitchen gas stove, and started the oven, leaving the oven door open.⁴ Perhaps the consequences of these actions are more obvious nowadays. Unfortunately for the Garcia family, carbon monoxide detectors didn't become commonplace for another four or five decades.


Shortly after 10:00pm that same evening, Albert Garcia's father-in-law, Teofilo Landavazo and two of Teofilo's sons, Alfonso and Maurice arrived at the Garcia home. It is said that Mr. Landavazo, who was from Gallup (over 100 miles away), was scheduled to stay the night with the Garcias.⁵ The three men found the entire Garcia family unconscious. Albert Garcia and his two sons were pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.⁶ Mrs. Garcia and the two daughters were initially said to "have a chance" at survival, but over the next twenty-four hours each would succumb to death, as well.


The previous owner of the home, Robert W. Delaney, The New Mexico Plumbing Company, and Southern Union Gas Company were all charged with violations of the state's plumbing code.⁸ Mr. Delaney pled guilty to charges of failure to obtain a permit to install a heater and failure to notify the state plumbing inspector of the installation, but doesn't appear to have had to serve any time or pay any fees.⁹ Civil lawsuits, seeking $255,000.00 in damages, were also filed against the three defendants.¹⁰


Unfortunately, this tragic story doesn't end here. On 26 January 1952, just two weeks after the devastating loss of Mr. and Mrs. Garcia and their four children, Albert Garcia's father, Albert Garcia Sr. died, arguably, from a broken heart. His death, in a local hospital, was said to have been caused by an illness brought on by the shock of the previous tragedy.¹¹


Albert Garcia Sr. and Albert Garcia Jr. have marked graves at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Albert Jr.'s wife and children are buried alongside Albert Jr. in unmarked graves.¹² It can be speculated that Albert Jr.'s gravestone was a benefit afforded to him due to his prior military service and finances may have prevented the greater extended family from providing stones for the rest of the family,


Albert Garcia Sr. was my husband's step great grandfather. Albert Garcia Jr. would have been his step great uncle. Ranging in ages from two to sixty six, it is undeniable that all seven of these family members were gone too soon. Thanks, in part, to earnest family stories and this researcher's diligence, it is my hope that Albert Sr., Albert Jr., Avila, Nancy, Bertha, Ronald, and Raymond never be forgotten.

 

1. "Three More Die From Fumes; Total Now Six," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 14 January 1952, pg 1, col 1, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156519506 : accessed 26 February 2023).

2. Ibid.

3. “Weather Report,” Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 12 January 1952, pg 3, col 1, para 4; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156517935/ : accessed 26 February 2023). Also, “Weather Report,” Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 13 January 1952, pg 21, col 1, para 3; digital image TNewspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156518937/ : accessed 26 February 2023).

4. "Three More Die From Fumes; Total Now Six," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 14 January 1952, pg 1, col 1, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156519506 : accessed 26 February 2023).

5. "Fumes Kill Father and Two Small Sons in Home," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 13 January 1952, pg 1, col 7, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156518288 : accessed 26 February 2023).

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid. Also, "Three More Die From Fumes; Total Now Six," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 14 January 1952, pg 1, col 1, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156519506 : accessed 26 February 2023).

8. "Plumbing Code Charges Filed In Death of Six," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 16 January 1952, pg 2, col 2, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156520710 : accessed 26 February 2023).

9. "Ex-House Owner Pleads Guilty To Code Charges," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 29 January 1952, pg 11, col 3, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/156531918 : accessed 26 February 2023).

10. "Change Is Made In $255,000 Suit," Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 12 August 1952, pg 20, col 3, para 1; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/782885523 : accessed 26 February 2023).

11. "Father of Man Who Was Asphyxiates Dies In Hospital," The Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, New Mexico), 26 January 1952, pg 11, col 2, para 3; digital image Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/782912758 : accessed 26 February 2023).

12. Laura A. Weber, personal knowledge, visits to Mount Calvary Cemetery, Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico.


 

Disclaimer: Each blog post is created and presented for marketing and entertainment purposes only but are based on larger research which adheres to the standards of The Board of Certification of Genealogists® as set forth in Genealogical Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing, 2014).

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