Maria José Pereira, 94, of Galt passed away on Aug. 20, 2020 from natural causes. She was born on Aug. 18, 1926, on the Island of Faial, Azores.
Maria José and the late Manuel Pereira (also known as Manuel and Maria José da canada) immigrated to the United States in 1959 with their two older daughters, Fatima Maria and Maria Manuela. They were refugees escaping the devastation caused by the Capelinhos Volcano eruption that started in September 1957 and finally ceased in October 1958. The volcano destroyed the island’s mostly agricultural and seafaring economy.
Thanks to Senators John O. Pastore of Rhode Island and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for introducing the 1958 Azorean Refugee Act in Congress, the Pereiras were able to start new lives in the United States. Although they didn’t speak a word of English when they arrived in America, they were able to successfully travel across the country on a Greyhound bus with assistance of friendly Portuguese-speaking people they encountered along the way. They settled in California and worked on dairies for their first five years until they were able to purchase their own dairy in Galt. When the family left the dairy business in 1974, Maria José began providing daycare in Sacramento for her grandchildren and the children of acquaintances until she retired in 2005.
Upon her retirement, Maria José moved to Portland, Oregon to live with her daughter Maria Manuela and her son-in-law John Naramore. She helped care for their home and pets, and enjoyed traveling with Maria around the country. In 2018, she returned to California to live with Fatima and her son-in-law Frank. Upon her return to California, she enjoyed spending time with family until her passing.
She was very proud to become an American Citizen on Nov. 17, 1999 and took her civic duty seriously by voting every year possible. Maria José’s favorite vacation spots were Monterey, Carmel and Fort Bragg in California. She was a lifelong devout, practicing Catholic and most recently a member of St. Christopher’s Catholic Church in Galt where she attended mass with Fatima and Frank.
Maria José, or Vovó as her family affectionately called her, is survived by her three daughters, Fatima Maria (Frank) Ortega of Galt, Maria Manuela (John) Naramore of Portland and Zelia “Sally” Maria Cebreros of Elk Grove; grandchildren Joshua Tobias (Windy) Ortega, Natasha Victoria (Vance) Cable and Jacob Alexander Cebreros; great-grandchildren Genevieve Clementine Bell, Liliana Maria Ortega and Miles Vance Cable.
Preceding her in death were her husband Manuel and their first-born son Joseph Emidio, who passed away on Faial when he was only six weeks old.
The family is planning a private Catholic service at the Galt Cemetery.