By Ed Martin, Editor
Josie Madrigal (in green) celebrates her 90th birthday in the company of her sisters, family members and friends on Dec. 21 at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino.
Josie Madrigal (in green) celebrates her 90th birthday in the company of her sisters, family members and friends on Dec. 21 at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino.

The measure of an exceptional parent is often determined by the quality and demeanor of her children. Longtime Lemoore matriarch Josefina Madrigal – Josie to her friends and loved ones – is a remarkable example of motherhood at its best, a parent whose considerable personal qualities have easily garnered her the respect and admiration of several generations of Madrigals, friends, and neighbors.

A healthy legion of Lemoore's Madrigal clan, including cousins, sisters, children, grandchildren, and at least one great-grandchild, were all on hand Saturday night at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino's Saltgrass room to honor the venerable Josie as she celebrated her milestone 90th birthday.

And judging by the way she responded to Saturday night's special anniversary, plans for Josie's 100th birthday party may already be in the works.

Josie produced six children, the offspring from her long and loving marriage to the late Raymond Madrigal, who passed away in 2005 after 52 years of wedded bliss. Her children, Trinidad, Olivia, Ray, Pini, Rosie, and Rudy, wouldn't have missed this party for the world.

Josie, while soft of voice, has a commanding presence. "I'm so proud of all my kids," she said from the sanctity of the second-floor banquet room where friends and family trickled in for the birthday bash. "They've all done well. They were the best kids."

Three of Josie's sisters – Socorro, Irma, and Rosa – also made the long journey from their Mexico homes to help celebrate the beginning of their sister's 10th decade. Her 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild – little Adeline, born just this year –  were also in attendance.

Josie, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, was born in 1929, the oldest daughter of Encarnacion and Transeito Cortes. Josie shared her parents with five sisters and a pair of brothers.

Her late husband, Raymond, was born in the United States but spent part of his childhood in Guadalajara, where he met his future wife in grade school. "We both had the same teachers for three years," recalled Josie, who said they attended school No. 48.

He was in his late teens when the United States beckoned, and he joined the Army. He was eventually shipped to Korea, where he served admirably during the Korean War. Thankfully, he survived the conflict and soon returned to Guadalajara, where he renewed his relationship with Josie, eventually asking for her hand. She accepted, and soon they were off to the United States. "We got married and moved back to the United States," said the pretty 23-year-old bride who admittedly didn't speak much English. Eventually, she managed to learn the language by watching American television.

"He was so romantic when he asked me to marry him. I said yes, right away. He was a really great guy, and I knew he was from a good family. He was a very nice man. He was often strict with his kids, but he was a very good father. He had a very good heart."

What eventually transpired was a long marriage based in love and respect that forged a pair of parents who proudly watched as their offspring became responsible adults in the community. The extended family eventually produced law enforcement officers, attorneys, educators, and more. One, oldest son Ray, a former California Highway Patrol commander, even served as Lemoore's mayor.

"The whole bunch was good," she said. "They were the best kids."

Josie was a model of motherhood to her children. While she may admit to an occasional sip of tequila, she said she never smoked or drank. Her only vice, if you want to call it that, as she often stays up late watching television. "If it's a program I like, I stay up until one or two in the morning. I usually wake up about 10:30 a.m."

But after nine decades, she's earned the extra sack time.

On Christmas Eve, family and friends gathered in Ray and Tammi Madrigal's beautiful home to celebrate the season, and of course, dote on the family's grand matriarch – celebrating her 90th Christmas – and while accompanied by her sisters, her six children, grandchildren, and one charming great-grandchild, she quietly expressed her tacit approval of it all – with a silent but confident smile.


Longtime Lemoore matriarch celebrates her 90th birthday in company of family and friends