Obituary: Hermenegildo ‘Mere’ Diaz

Hermenegildo 'Mere' Diaz
Hermenegildo 'Mere' Diaz
Provided Photo

April 13, 1931 – July 3, 2023

Heremenegildo (“Mere” or “Don Mere”) Sanchez Diaz died peacefully, after 92 years of life, on July 3, 2023 in Reno, Nevada surrounded by his children.

Mere was born on April 13, 1931, in the remote and small town of San Pedro De Asafranes Durango, México to Simon Diaz and Jacinta Sanchez Ramirez. Simon had 11 other children, but Jacinta had only Mere, and she raised him in San Pedro, with his uncle, Cleofas Sanchez, and grandmother, Pantaleona Ramirez Mier, both of whom adored him. His uncle would frequently come to his defense when he protested going to school, as little boys will, and his grandmother would reprimand him for filling up on avocados ahead of the proper meals she would prepare for him. Mere remembered collecting avocados off the ground before the sun came up, lamenting when he accidentally picked up cow dung instead. He’d tell this story, and flick his hand away from his face as if there were dung on his hand in that moment, 80 years later. Then he’d release his signatory giggle “eeh eeh eeh”, nose scrunched up and eyes narrow – it was the best sound.

As he got older, Mere would make the trek on foot with his uncle through the Sierra Madres to Sinaloa, México to collect food and supplies for the small San Pedro stores. They’d bring mules with them to carry back the supplies from Sinaloa, and the journey would take 10 full days. At 19, he left San Pedro to work in the fields in Sinaloa, México.

A year later, in 1951, Mere immigrated to the United States initially working in the fields in Arizona. He’d joke about this journey in later years of his life, teasing his granddaughter, TC, that he didn’t swim in pools, and only swam in The Rio Grande. Later that year, his brothers Cheno and Simon brought him to Truckee to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

In 1952, at a party in Verdi, Mere met Pauline Mary Marin, whose sister Chata was married to Cheno. Mere and Pauline married on January 11, 1954. Their marriage reflected a quiet and immovable commitment to one another that endured for 67 years. By the time Pauline died in 2021, they moved together through their days, two parts of one whole, Mere, always keeping track of Pauline’s medication and ensuring she was properly fed and caffeinated.

Over the span of 17 years, Pauline and Mere had six children: Arthur, David, Teresa, Michael, Alicia (“Lisa”) and Angela. Mere was tougher in those years, as he sought to raise and protect his children in a manner that was traditional of a patriarch in the 1960s and 1970s. And yet, his devotion to his family was absolute. Mere worked tirelessly at the railroad to provide for them, and often took on side jobs. During a season where he worked for the railroad during the day and at the lumber yard through the night, Mere’s doctor told him he had to quit the lumber yard because he simply wasn’t getting enough sleep.

Even in the years when his work schedule was demanding, Mere was devoted to good food. On nights when Pauline worked at the hospital and he was in charge of dinner for the kids, he’d take them to pick herbs by the river to add to his “delicious potatoes”. He packed his work lunches for the week, cooking them over an open fire on the side of the train tracks. He made the best machaca and chicharones and fried chicken and frita. He hung deer jerky in the laundry room. There was always a jar of his fresh salsa in the fridge.

To know Mere, though, was to know and love his tortillas. Always the early riser, he made fresh tortillas every morning before the sun came up. He rolled out the flour tortillas on the thicker side with his uniform inch and a half rolling pin, cooking each one meticulously over the electric stove on one of his parrillas. There was no recipe, and many of his family tried to learn over the years (his beloved son-in-law Pascual coming the closest). Rather, the measurements and method lived in his bones, as a part of him as his beating heart.

In 1993, after 42 years of service, Mere retired from the railroad and settled into a retirement that was anything but idle. Still rising early and making tortillas, he’d host his family and friends (his “customers”) for breakfast next to Pauline at their dining table: eggs, made to order, bacon, tortillas, his fresh salsa, a hash brown patty (if you’d like) and sometimes avocados. Mere would send you on your way with your own stack of tortillas, fresh salsa and your very own parrilla which he made by hand on his lap (his “factory”). Each one had custom colors on the handle and would take him eight hours to make.

When Mere was not cooking for his loved ones, he was tending his beautiful yard or teasing his grandchildren to delight in their giggles and smiles. He had stashes of candy in his dresser drawer, on top of the fridge and in his shirt pocket and he made sure his grandchildren knew where to look for these treats – tiny little reminders of a grandfather who loved his grandchildren and was thinking of small ways to make them feel his love.

Mere’s was a life of service and devotion to his wife and children, his grandchildren and extended family and his dear friends. He loved immensely and completely with his actions and the work of his hands and his meticulous and delicious cooking, with his stories, his jokes and his laughter.

It is difficult to imagine a world that he is not living in and we will miss him terribly.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Pauline and his beloved grandson, Pascual “Tito”. He is survived by his six children, Arthur, David, Teresa, Michael, Lisa, and Angela. He is also survived by his seventeen grandchildren: Jose, Jessica, Teresa Nichole, Chelsey, Tyler, Katie, Dana, Kellen, Anthony, Jacqueline, Emalie, Olivia, Taylor, Gabriel, Dominic and Mateo Cruz, and his fourteen great-grandchildren: Cyrus, Grant, Isabelle, Sophia, Isaiah, Santi Fidela, Zion, Cynthia, Elijah, Laynee, Cambria, Charlotte, Annabelle, Julia and Claire.

A service will be held at 1:00pm on July 20th, 2023 at The Assumption of Catholic Church in Truckee, California.

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