Long ago in Cuba, a man named Manuel Hernandez married a woman named Aurora Aleman. Together on their farm they raised eight children. Aurora took her last breath only three months after Manuel's death, so some might say she died of a broken heart.
The eldest son, Joaquin, who early in life had to drop out of seventh grade to help work the farm with his family was left to take care of his brothers and sisters after his parents passing. He even postponed plans for marriage until his youngest sister was grown. Despite his delay in education, he grew up with a thirst for knowledge and promised himself that his children would go to college.
Joaquin met and fell in love with Adela Castillo whose parents were Cecilio Castillo and Augustina Perez. Adela gave birth to their three children, Fermin, Cira, and Abilio.
When it came time for Joaquin's children to go to school, he sold the farm and ventured into the trucking business. World War II had just ended and many army trucks were sold to civilians. He purchased a surplus dump truck and planned on transporting materials for a new highway that was being built. However, Joaquin did not know how to drive as he had been transporting cane sugar via the traditional ox and cart. He resolved this problem by hiring a truck driver. The first of many steps on his perilous road in developing his business.
Joaquin's lack of knowledge of the business world and the unpredictable economic situation after WWII caused the failure of the business. Nevertheless, his family was off the farm and living in a town. His children could go to school and he finally knew how to drive a truck. He found a job at a manufacturing plant in one of the bigger towns where his children could be provided an education.
The towns educational system was good but only provided up to a ninth grade level. The children excelled in their education because Joaquin kept in close contact with the teachers.
The year before all the children had completed high school, the Castro Revolution had taken over the country. The educational system was in shambles. However, Joaquin arranged for private tutors to help the children complete their high school.
Soon Joaquin and Adela's youngest son, Abilio had decided that he could no longer live in Cuba under the repressive regime. Castro had abolished the freedom of religion, expression, and choice in education. After years of trying to migrate, Divine Providence had directed Archbishop Thomas Clavel to respond to a letter Abilio wrote, asking for a Visa. Years later, after his exile to the United States in the diocese of Orange, Archbishop Clavel was again placed into Abilio's life and baptized Abilio's fourth child, Alex.
It was February 1962 when Abilio arrived in Panama. Attending the local University was marred by his work schedule and he abandoned the idea of pursuing his education for the time being. October of 1962 brought the confrontation between Kennedy, the President of the United States, and Khrushchev, the communist leader of Russia. These were terrifying days for Abilio since the soviet missiles were pointed directly at Panama, to blow up the canal. The reality of a nuclear holocaust was an imminent threat. However, the crisis, at last, resolved and Abilio made plans to leave for New York.
Prior to leaving Panama, Abilio worried about leaving to New York with barely any money, but again Divine Providence had ordained for him some relief. While picking up a pair of wool pants for winter at the tailor's shop, a young boy accosted him to buy lottery tickets, as he had not been able to sell any that day for the drawing later on that evening. Abilio, who had not bought a single ticket during his year in Panama, took pity on the boy and bought ten tickets, which netted him $800 that night. Meanwhile, a friend from the church that Abilio attended had heard that he was going to move to New York and asked her neighbor, who was the owner of a Costa Rican airline, for a plane ticket to New York, which he gladly provided free of charge. Abilio's worries were over for now but he was arriving during the winter with a high unemployment rate in New York and he didn't speak any English.
Fortunately, he had enough money to last him for several months and he soon found employment working in a sheet metal factory, despite it being very difficult work. When summer came, he found a job at Guy Lombardo, the famous band player's restaurant. At the restaurant, he washed dishes, which was relatively easier than his job working sheet metal.
September came and Abilio registered at Nassau Community College as a chemistry major. Yet, before the semester ended, he was drafted to the United States Army. He received his draft notice the day President Kennedy was assassinated while the Vietnam War was heating up. Abilio was sent to Germany to serve as Chaplain's Assistant to the VII Corps. After basic training, he spent 18 months in Germany and 6 months in the United States. All of this represented more delay in his education, but his father's words resonated in his mind, "They can strip you of your property, but they can never strip you of your knowledge and education."
Although somewhat discouraged by another delay in his college education, he embraced the army life with enthusiasm, which earned him a good conduct medal and one for being an expert shooter with an M-16 assault rifle. After returning from the service he returned to Nassau Community College. Now fluent in English, he could excel in his education. He received an associates degree in chemistry at Nassau and went on to Adelphi University, where he completed a bachelor's degree in biology.
He applied and was accepted to four medical schools, finally selecting University of California, Irvine. His childhood dream of becoming a doctor was finally being reached. In December 14, 1973 he received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine. He went on to specialize in adult and child psychiatry. Abilio became board certified in these specialties and also in addiction medicine. Joaquin, who had migrated to the United States in 1969 with Adela, was able to watch his dream for his children's education become a reality for Abilio, as they were for his two older siblings.
I am so proud to call this man my father.
I am so grateful God placed you in my life. I love you dad! Happy Birthday!