Blanche Vierra’s ancestors were island people from the San Miguel Island, Azores and Madeira, Portugal. Her father, Alexander, was from “The Big Island,” Territory of Hawaii, where he married Clara Gomes in 1918. They later relocated to the island of Oahu, where Blanche was born April 18th, 1924 at their home in Honolulu. Blanche spent an idyllic childhood in her Kaimuki/St. Louis Heights neighborhood and attended Sacred Hearts Academy. Her father built many of the homes in the St. Louis Heights area after living in Waikiki with Duke Kahanamoku as a neighbor. In the fall of 1941, Blanche entered her senior year at Sacred Hearts Academy planning to attend Stanford University in 1942. On Sunday morning, December 7th 1941, following early Mass, Blanche set off to meet her friends at the Moana Hotel swimming pool where it was their custom to swim. Upon her arrival, the Moana’s manager told her that Oahu was under air attack, and she must go straight home. Following the attack, many civil servants from the mainland were sent back home until further notice so military commands on Oahu recruited local high school seniors for basic administrative tasks. One such recruit was Blanche Vierra. By January 1942 Blanche worked as admin support at Commander US Army Pacific, Fort Shafter, and young Blanche typed the top-secret telex that communicated the orders for the April 18, 1942 “Doolittle Raid”—the American forces surprise bombing raid on greater Tokyo from an aircraft carrier 650 miles east in the Pacific.
During the summer of 1942, Blanche said goodbye to her family and embarked on a Navy ship to the US mainland at San Francisco where she resided in a hotel while awaiting registration at Stanford. In the interim she contracted a fever and doctor’s orders were that she leave the humid environment of the Bay area and live in a dry environment. Blanche visited for a time with relatives in San Diego and by October 1943 she was living with relatives in Tulare, California. Shortly, and unbeknownst to Blanche, Cadet Arthur Ivors Walker, Jr. reported to the Rankin Aeronautical Academy in Tulare, CA, for basic pilot training. Blanche attended a USO shindig for the Tulare area servicemen and there met her future husband, Art.
On September 2, 1944, they married and spent the next 31 years in the Air Force traveling throughout Japan and the United States.
In her retirement years, Blanche channeled her energies into real estate, helping other military families find homes in the Universal City area outside of Randolph AFB, TX. She and Art were married for 76 years and had four lovely children, nine wonderful grandchildren, and fifteen amazing great-grandchildren. In 2010, she moved to Camarillo to be near her daughters and graced each day with her family ‘til her passing on February 8th.
So here we are to celebrate Blanche’s 96 – almost 97, full and robust years on the planet!
While we, her children, don’t have direct knowledge of her early years growing up in the paradise called Hawaii or of the grand adventure she embarked upon when she met, fell in love with, and married Arthur, we have treasured the stories she told about her family (sometimes laughing, sometimes scratching our heads), Arthur’s family, and the historic times playing out in her early life. We listened to stories of growing up in her large extended Portuguese familia, learning culinary magic from her mother, Clara; construction secrets from her father, Alexander, and the hilarious drama amongst aunts, uncles and cousins--Stories of coming to the mainland, of meeting this young pilot, and marrying in a small Texas outpost called Marfa-- So many shocking differences between her close-knit family and multi-racial community amidst a gentle tropical landscape and the new in-laws living a life of fierce independence and subsistence on a parched Texas ranch, miles from town.
This new experience of family so starkly opposite from the warm, welcoming, embracing tribe she left across the Pacific created the crucible that forged strength, resilience, determination and dignity within a proud young woman who would not be diminished by others’ small perspectives.
We know firsthand of Blanche’s steadfastness at all times and in all circumstances. We know firsthand of her unconditional loving, her deep caring for our wellbeing, her fetsaida or sixth sense that told her when something was seriously wrong or we were in danger. As each of us entered adulthood and made our way in the world, we reached out to her for comfort and advice during rocky times, and she never expressed a single doubt that we couldn’t deal with our challenges, not a single word to suggest that we would not prevail– only consistent, powerful encouragement that we were fully capable of dealing with what was before us. After all, each of us were Achievers. Her steady support enabled us to expand past survival and into prosperity and abundance, experiencing lives fully realized.
That is how we know Blanche. Despite her own disappointments and challenges, she focused on what was of utmost importance: providing loving, support, and guidance to her family, and the fun of sharing time with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And with her undiminished sharp mental acuity, a handful of crossword puzzles ever present at her side, she watched what she called “the circus in Washington D.C.,” viewed through her perspective that was founded in the solid common sense of her upbringing and life experience and her vision of how better the world could be.
How lucky are we that she guided our lives? Though we didn’t know it at the time, seeing now through the long--but really short--passage of time, her strength and steadfastness we have always counted on; she never failed to be there for each of us during the good times and especially during our troubled times of challenge.
We are truly blessed, Blanche, Mom, Grandmother, Gigi, that you touched our lives. Your presence is deeply missed.
Blanche Vierra Walker,
Early Neighbor of Duke Kahanamoku,
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii,
Premature infant, no bigger than a minute
But larger than life in energy and spirit,
Olive-skinned beauty, petite, poised, powerhouse of passion and wit,
Our own modern day Dowager Countess
Enlightening us with her perceptive zingers that rarely missed the mark.
Walker, swimmer, puzzler, baker, cook, seamstress, designer, accountant, Scrabble Champion
Reader and mystery buff,
Top-secret, Doolittle Raid military dispatcher,
Transformer of sterile base quarters into cozy homes and lush gardens,
Creator of loving family circles
That keep expanding and linking souls across the planet.
A Teacher of how to say goodbye with courage, assured of the promise of a hello even though the future seems to hold shadows and little light.
A Teacher of how to be courageous, flexible, and hopeful as the years change our world.
A Teacher of how important humor is during troubled times.
A Teacher who shared her many gifts with us and showed us how to live with courage, faith, strength, honor, optimism, resilience, and love.
Mom, you are so greatly missed.