San Bernardino native Jim Valdez loved his hometown and its history – San Bernardino Sun

During my years researching San Bernardino’s past, more than a few “colorful” characters have come up. One individual’s incredible memory made local history during his lifetime even more interesting — that was the late James R. Valdez Jr.

This man loved sharing his personal history and knowledge.

Jim was born in San Bernardino on March 29, 1930, the second of five children born to James and Carmelita Valdez, and went on to be a lifelong resident of his hometown.

After graduating in 1948 from San Bernardino High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served 20 years as a hospital corpsman 1st Class, which included time on the USS Guadalupe and USS Eversole.

After retiring from the Navy in 1969, Jim worked at Sage’s Market on Base Line, as a retail clerk at Clark’s Nutrition, and as a caregiver with Upjohn.

Meanwhile, his devotion to his hometown never wavered.

When he wasn’t gardening — a hobby he thoroughly enjoyed — Jim was volunteering.

The San Bernardino High graduate remained loyal to his alma mater by becoming involved with the Old-timers Alumni Association, sponsoring Mr. and Miss Cardinal events and with the dedication of a new campus flagpole.

Jim’s passion for helping promote the good things about San Bernardino was evident with his involvement with the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society. He was a wonderful storyteller and he frequently brought up interesting anecdotes during question-and-answer sessions toward the of the group’s presentations.

Jim would also reminisce during informal gatherings. One such topic was about the long since-torn down Magnolia Market at 696 Magnolia Ave. in San Bernardino.

He informed me that the man who ran the popular grocery store from 1937 to 1955 was Arthur Gorian, who seemingly always had a cigar in his mouth and was known as the “Mayor of Magnolia Ave.”

Jim mentioned that while attending San Bernardino High, the market was a favorite gathering spot during lunch periods. There was a huge walnut tree next to the market where the kids sat with their brown bag lunches. Back then, the cost of soda, ice cream or a candy bar was 5 cents, while a cheese and bologna sandwich with tomato and lettuce cost 15 cents.

With the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society, Jim proudly served on the Board of Directors from 2001 until his recent passing. Among his valuable contributions were participating in the Harvest Fair, hosted by the Center For individual Development, or C.I.D, helping to coordinate both the 80th and 100th anniversary re-dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument near the Feldheym Library in Pioneer Park and co-leading a walking tour of San Bernardino’s intersection of Base Line and E Street.

This tireless man was extremely patriotic to our country and he showed it during a wonderful presentation called “The Homecoming from World War I.” The presentation to the Historical Society was focused on the significance of the event in our country’s history, which took place in February 1919. Jim highlighted our local returning soldiers from San Bernardino’s Company K and American Legion Post 14. He also focused on the reason the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that stands on the grounds is such an important memorial to all men and women who sacrificed their lives for the United States.

Jim’s pride in being an American didn’t stop here, however. He served on the inaugural Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee for more than 26 years as well as with the Memorial Honor Detail. He was also involved with the Fleet Reserve Association (Norco No. 8) and a board member of Vietnam Veterans of America (Chapter 47).

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