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John Sotelo Remembered

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John Martin Sotelo "Johnny" was born in Riverside on January 19, 1925 to Feliciana Esobedo and Meliton Sotelo. He had three older brothers, Teodoro "Ted" Ignacio Arroyo, and Alejandro Hernandez, one younger brother Meliton Sotelo, Jr. and sister Alicia Sotelo-Garnett. He attended La Habra Elementary School and Irving Elementary in Riverside, then continued to University Junior Heights and graduated from Polytechnic "Poly" High School. While in high school he played basketball with the YMCA and was on varsity football. He was also a cadet with the ROTC. While in his senior year in auto shop he was approached by his instructor based on his quick learning abilities along with other high academic level students; which were to serve with auto dealers in Riverside to work under apprenticeship. As the only Mexican American this level of achievement was very honorable and he was the first to be chosen and placed in this group. Rubidoux Cadillac dealership was where John was placed for this assignment and he continued until he graduated in 1943.

John joined the Navy and served as Motor Machinist's Mate Third Class. He did basic training in San Diego and Idaho, also served on the USS Fulton, USS Proteus, USS Grenlet. He was in Tokyo Bay at the time of the signing of the surrender of Japan. After the war, he returned to Riverside in May 1946, where he continued his employment with Rubidoux Cadillac Motors. He was enlisted in the Reserves for an additional four years.

In the summer of 1947, he met Ramona Estrada and married her in 1948. During his marriage John and Ramona went to Michigan for technical trade school education through his employer. He along with other Mexican American veterans formed the Dario Vasquez American Legion Post #740. They would meet at the Community Settlement House where he served as the Second Vice Chairman on the Board of Directors. He became active and volunteering his time with the Junior Chamber of Commerce later to becoming a member. In 1952, the Sotelo's started their family which includes Phyllis Anne, Kenneth John, Michael, and Cynthia.

In 1957, John started Victoria Shell located on the corner of Victoria Ave and 14th Street and to this present day is known as Victoria Auto Towing, which moved to 3161 Prospect Ave. In the fall of 1961, he contracted polio and was hospitalized for much of that year and into 1962. Until this present day you were able to see the ill effects of polio. This was no concern for John to believe he had a handicap, but pushed to continue to strive and accomplish more. In early 1962, John was approached by Minority Business Leaders from the Eastside community asking him to run for City Council to make a change; serving as City Councilman for 10 years on Ward 2. After leaving City Council, he continued his business of Victoria Auto Towing, but never left community active services. In 1971, he was involved with the Baja 500 from Tecate to Ensenada; also in 1973, with Ron Quesada they transported to Ensenada (Sister City), motorcycles, and 1 Fire Engine. Around the late 70's, John with a group of Firefighters and Cautla, Mexico (firefighter) took 9 surplus police cars to Cuatla, Mexico.

May 2004, John developed cancer and was able to fight, but was unable to conduct business as usual, which lead him to remain home to care for his wife Ramona who had developed Alzheimer's disease. John remained by Ramona's side until her death in February 2006. After the passing of his wife, he became active in the community once again.

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