2012 Grand Marshal Frances Ortiz

2012 Grand Marshal Frances Sotomayor Ortiz

I was born in Mesa, Arizona on April 22, 1940. I came to Woodlake in 1966 and have been here ever since. I was raised in Arizona and graduated from Tempe High School in Tempe Arizona in 1958.

My parents were Ben and Flora Sotomayor who came here to attend a wedding and loved the small town environment. Since my father has always been a grocery store owner, he decided to buy a store here. The market was known as Ben’s Cash Market and it is currently Tono’s Market located near the Old Boas Minnow Farm. My dad showed all of us how to work and to be responsible, to work hard be honest and to not take any crap from anyone. My mom, she showed us how to be friendly, smile, say hello to everyone and to find time to help those less fortunate than ourselves. She wanted us to love people, show respect and never hurt someone just to make us feel better than someone else.

We were to treat everyone, no matter who or what they did, with respect and to not be rude to anyone because of their nationality, color or beliefs. I loved my parents and miss them every day.

My parents have always owned small grocery stores and it is where I learned to work from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. I had six brothers, two sisters and including myself there were nine kids a total of 11 in the family. We all worked hard every day. I cooked, washed clothes, ironed clothes, helped cut meat, stocked and cashiered along with all the other household chores and attended school. Since I was the oldest daughter it was my responsibility to help care for the house and help with my siblings. I attended Tempe High School where, I was involved in many activities during my school years. I was on every sport team, including Bat mitten, basketball and softball. I was also school editor for girls’ sports.

I started playing softball at the age of 11 and played until my 40s. When I came to Woodlake, I was also a member of the Woodlake Roadrunners softball team. don’t remember everything, except that we had an amazing team. It was brought to my attention that people would come from all around the county to the games to see me pitch. In 1958 I pitched softball at the World’s Tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut, at the age of 18. I was clocked at 93 miles per hour and I guess this drew a crowd. In 1990, I was inducted into the Tempe High School Hall of Fame for softball at my high school. I never thought of myself as anything but a team player and proud to be on any team or committee.

Since arriving in Woodlake in 1966, I met and married my husband Cornelio Ortiz in 1970. He works for Hellwig Products in Visalia. We have been married for 41 years. Cornelio and I have raised our five kids together. We have four daughters and one son. Flora Robles who works at the Woodlake Hardware; Mary Helen Runnels is a Registered Nurse; Lupe Robles Pinon is a Parole Service Associate and on the Woodlake Cheerleader; Irene Robles Teraoka, basketball player and member of the High School Basketball Championship team and also College of the Sequoias Championship team, now a High School Teacher; and Corny Ortiz Jr. owner of Ortiz Automotive in Woodlake. All my kids grew up in Woodlake, graduated from high school here and were in all kinds of sports. They swam, played basketball, softball, football and enjoyed all the pleasures of their high school activities. Woodlake schools allowed my kids to be successful and happy campers. I am proud of all they have done and accomplished living in Woodlake.

When I came to Woodlake, I picked oranges, field packed grapes, worked in packing sheds and packed tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, nectarines and plums. I cleaned houses, ironed clothes for others and babysat for other working mothers. I worked for the Head Start Program, Community Service and Employment Training, Proteus, Woodlake Elementary School District, Sun Pacific Packing House and retired from Tulare County Area Agency on Aging. I worked for the City of Woodlake as a Police Reserve Officer for 9 years and 2 years as a Police Dispatcher. I’ll have been on the City Council since 1994 until now and was Mayor of this great City for two years in 2002-2004.

I served on the Board to the Woodlake Family Health Care Clinic, Self Help Enterprises, and Woodlake Elementary School Board I also served as a Court Interpreter. I am currently a Notary Public and assist many families with Medi-Cal benefits and Medicare questions or problems. I am a HiCAP volunteer and also a AARP Driver Education Instructor.

My life has always been dedicated to my family, friends and the community. My greatest joy has been that of my family, including, my husband, five kids, 20 grandkids and four great grand kids. We all like getting together to eat, visit, sing, dance and tell stories and joke around. My greatest satisfaction is being free and being able to enjoy the freedom to help others and express myself in a manner that is pleasing to God and those that I serve. I am proud of my family, my friends, my acquaintances and being a servant to my community. I love being able to share my knowledge and love with as many people as I can. I enjoy helping others in any way I can.

In some ways, you can say that I am also pretty stubborn when challenged. However, I will respond and rise up to a challenge and get answers. Those who really know me will tell you just who I am and what I stand for. I am very proud to be a member of this City. Woodlake is where I have raised my family. They have grown up here and here is where they have learned to be kind and generous. They smile and say hello to everyone they meet and no one is a stranger. I hope to live here for many more years to come and continue helping others. Woodlake is a great place to live and we invite all of you to come visit our town one day where you will be treated like family.

The Woodlake Lions Club has been around for a long time and has helped the community in many ways, they help the Sseniors, they provide vision assistance to the needy, they prepare and manage the Woodlake Rodeo and Parade and never stop looking for ways to help those in need, and at this time I would like to especially thank the Woodlake Lions Club for giving me this honor as Grand Marshall. I am truly humbled and honored. Thank you again.