As far as it goes, this tombstone at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Oakland, CA, is pretty simple. Only one person is buried here, my Great Uncle, Antao A. Souza.
Antao was born 12 Feb 1890 in Kilauea, Kauai Co., HI. He was the sixth child out of thirteen born to Francesca de Mendonca and Augusto Souza. He was baptized in St. Stephen’s Church in Moloa’a, Kauai Co., HI on 2 Mar 1890.
The pronounciation of Antao is Anton. Anton is the spelling he adapted as a young man.
Anton left Hawaii before he reached the age of 18. He was a farm laborer in Soledad, CA in 1910. Then moved on to King City by 1914. There he was an engineer on a sugar beet plantation.
On the 4th of July, 1914, Anton married Maria, the daughter of Theodoro Pacheco and Maria de Braga at St. Joseph’s Church in Oakland, CA. Anton and Maria had their wedding then went home to King City. It wouldn’t be long before Maria’s mother and siblings would move a short distance away–to Spreckels, CA, after Maria’s father died in December of 1914.
Their marriage had trials from the start. Maria gave birth to a boy, Theodore, in 1915. He died of cholera at the age of 2 months. They tried again and had another son, Alfred, in 1916.
Sometime around 1918, Maria gave birth to a daughter, Christine. Christine died of what my Grandmother referred to as “milk fever”. She recalled her as a beautiful baby with rose petal lips.
On Anton’s WWI draft registration card dated 1918, the couple is noted as living in Chualar. He worked as a steam engineer on the Spreckels Sugar Beet Plantation.
Anton and Maria moved back to Oakland by 1920 perhaps to get away from the sadness of the loss of their daughter. They move to the only street that the Pacheco’s and their kin seemed to know about, E. 25th Street.
Maria got pregnant one more time. This time everything went well. She gave birth to another son in 1924 and named him after the first son that they lost.
When they moved back to Oakland, Anton no longer did agricultural work. He was a fireman and engineer on the ferry boats that went from Oakland to San Francisco. By 1942, he worked for Southern Pacific in Oakland.
Anton’s life was brief. He was diagnosed with cancer around 1940. He succombed to it in 1945 at the age of 55.
Anton was known by many names in his 55 years on Earth. Antao Souza, Anton Souza, Antone August Souza, Tony A. Souza. But the name that everyone knew him by was “Dean”.
How did he get the nickname “Dean”? His nephew, Donald Jordan Smith, had a speech impediment. Since these folks were Portuguese and spoke the language fluently, they used many of the Portuguese terms to refer to each other. Anton was Donald’s godfather or “padrinho” in Portuguese. Donald couldn’t pronounce that long word, so he started calling him “Dean”. The name stuck and the couple known as Nanny and Dean were forever etched in everyone’s minds and hearts.
This photo was taken just before Dean passed away. From left to right: Theodore Pacheco Smith, Alfred Souza, Joao “Bohne” Pacheco Smith, Antao “Dean” Souza.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com