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Pete Padilla dies of heart attack

quick wit, humor recalled by friends, family

March 30, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A quick wit and tremendous sense of humor are among the many qualities friends and family of Pedro "Pete" Padilla said they will miss.

Padilla died of a massive heart attack Wednesday. He was 85.

Padilla, born Sept. 13, 1915, in Guadalajara, Mexico, was known to Imperial Valley residents as the official photographer for Calexico High School and the owner of a downtown Calexico photography studio.

He established the Second Street studio shortly after he graduated from Calexico High School in 1934, according to his sister, Margarita Padilla De Necochea.

Padilla's family arrived in Calexico in 1924.

For 50 years he took photographs of generations of families from all over the Imperial Valley.

Those photographs included treasured portraits and pictures of the children of some of his early customers, De Necochea said.

Padilla also photographed a number of celebrities, including John Wayne, Cantinflas and Manolete.

Calexico City Councilman John Renison remembers Padilla as a great photographer who could make even students look like movie stars.

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Padilla also took photographs at Calexico High football games, proms, dances and other school events, Renison said.

Padilla had an extensive collection of photographs from his trips all over the world and photos detailing the history of the Imperial Valley.

This trove of history was one of the ways Padilla helped the city after he retired, Renison said.

Recently Padilla had been working to put together pictures for Calexico's 93rd anniversary celebration.

Padilla captured one especially rare picture in 1932.

According to a 1994 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Padilla took a photograph of a rare snowfall north of Mexicali that left "2 to 3 inches on the ground."

Padilla loved to collect as well as create art, De Necochea said.

"You should have seen his house. He had art on the floor, art on the walls, just art all over the place," she said.

Padilla acquired a lot of his art during his trips abroad.

One of his favorite places to visit was Japan.

Padilla returned there year after year because of the friendships he cultivated during his military tour of duty in the Pacific Rim country, according to an article in the Imperial Valley Press in 1983 by Peter Odens.

Padilla served in the occupation of Japan after World War II as a counter-intelligence officer under Gen. Douglas MacArthur for three years, according to the article.

He was honored for his service in World War II after coming home to his bride and high school sweetheart Lupe Acevez, De Necochea said.

He had married Lupe two years before being drafted. They recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

In recent years the couple made an annual trip up the Volga River in Russia.

The cruises gave the Padillas a chance to visit friends they met each year on the trip.

Padilla was known for his wit and humor. He often wrote letters to the editor of local newspapers explaining his viewpoint on many topics.

Everyone looked forward to his humorous take on a variety of issues, according to a former staffer of the Imperial Valley Press, Anna Terrazas.

Padilla was preceded in death by a brother, Ruben Padilla, and a sister, Conchita Encinas.

He is survived by his wife, Lupe Acevez-Padilla of Calexico; brothers, Oscar and Carlos Padilla of San Diego; sisters Willie Padilla and Margarita De Necochea, both of Calexico, and several nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Hems Bros. Mortuary chapel in Calexico.

There will be a Mass celebrated in his honor at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Calexico. Burial will be in Mountain View Cemetery in Calexico.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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