Archbishop Gerken hosted the family at a luncheon after the ceremony and was seated across from her. Mónica remembers that he folded his hands together as in a prayer and parted the centerpiece flowers in half, saying “peek-a-boo” to Mónica. When she tried to do the same thing in response, her parents told her to sit back down. Later, at the party at the Chávez home on Acequia Madre (“Aunt Nic’s house”), the helpers wouldn’t give her a glass of water when she asked for it. She felt let down because she had assumed she was so special that day, but those helping out were too busy to take care of her request.
Mónica remembers how close her husband Dick Halford was to Fray Angélico. The two friends spent many happy times together drinking the priest’s preferred scotch, Chivas Regal. Sometimes Dick would pour less expensive scotch into the bottle and one time Fray Angélico followed him into the kitchen and caught him in the act. “You and I have the same habit!” he laughed.
Mónica was a pioneer when she joined the Navy WAVES after high school and served at the Alameda Naval Air Station in California from 1952 to 1955. She flew as a flight attendant on several trips a month to Pearl Harbor during the Korean War. These long flights on the huge Morse JRMs (three-stor-eys high, according to Mónica) required two crews who took turns sleeping dur-ing the long flights to Hawaii. Mónica remembers taking crews of marines on their way to the Korea, who had to sit in bucket canvas seats with no seat belts and became nauseous from the bumpy flights. The attendants had to change their own clothes during the flights because the air-sickness bags weren’t ade- quate to contain the problem.
As part of her training, Mónica had to jump from a tower into the Naval Air Station swimming pool with her arms crossed across her chest. She was scared, and the trainer shouted, “Sosaya, jump, or you can’t fly!” When she was still too afraid, he came up behind her and kicked her butt. Once in the water she was fine.
On another occasion, she slipped on an oil-covered ramp getting on to the plane in Alameda, falling between the plane and the dock. She had broken her nose, but she “had a heavy date in Pearl Harbor,” and insisted she would be fine to take the flight. On board, however, she passed out and had to rest for most of the trip!
With all her spunk, one time Mónica was even courtmartialed. She had dared to call an officer “Ace,” a term the guys used among themselves. The offi- cer was a new graduate of the Naval Academy and one day, when Mónica’s missing jacket was finally found after a frantic search, she joked, “Don’t sweat your first cruise, Ace!” Needless to say, he did not take her joke lightly.
Mónica was paid well at the time: $85 a month salary, $45 for hazardous duty on the two-to-three flights per month, and $20 a day per diem in Hawaii. She remembers opening a charge account at a department store in downtown Oakland and buying lots of nice clothes.
One day in January 2017, Mónica recalls a kind of daydream in which she thought that she was in Waikiki, taking a city bus to Pearl Harbor and to the base. In this dream, she imagined that she was given royal treatment by the staff at the base. Later, her second daughter Felicia called to ask what she was doing March 6-15, and then called the Commander to arrange a trip with her mother to Pearl Harbor. Mónica was treated like royalty at the base that week. She was interviewed three times and feted at banquets. She spoke with some of the women serving at the joint Air Force and Navy base. “You paved the way for us,” they told her. But when some described their current treacherous work searching for mines. Mónica was moved by their courage. “You girls are my si- lent heroes,” she told them.
Eighty-six-year-old Mónica told me she was soon off to an event at one of the casinos and that she was about to curl her hair for the occasion. She would stop first to have a picture at the statue of her cousin, Fray Angélico Chávez, on Washington Street in downtown Santa Fe in front of the New Mexico History
Library and Photographic Archives. She promised to send me a copy!
Mónica made my day with her articulate stories in that wonderful phone conversation. I sent her the books later that day, with fond memories of the August 18, 1998 interview we did with her and Dick about Fray Angélico in their beautiful home on El Caminito, where so many have enjoyed their hospi- tality over the decades. I sincerely hope there are many more such conversa- tions to come!
Read about her at Santa Fe Living Treasures: