Obituary Otilio Martinez Robles

April 16, 2014

Otilio Martinez Robles 

Otilio Martinez Robles, 82, was born in Santa Paula on December 13, 1931, to Jose Nieves and Panfila Robles; and died peacefully on March 15,2014.

Otilio spoke Spanish in his first four years of life, and learned English after starting Kindergarten at East School. Like all Latino youth of those days, he was automatically tracked into vocational classes at Isabel Junior High and at Santa Paula High where he took his first auto mechanics courses. Tinkering with mechanical devices became a life-long passion; both a useful as well as an esthetic avocation.  He excelled on the gymnastic team at Santa Paula High and was a member of the football team that became 1949 CIF State Champions. He also played on a semi-pro, fast-pitch softball team after high school.

Family was of utmost importance to Otilio. As the youngest of 13 children, he recalled always working since about 4 years old; primarily helping his older siblings with farm labor.

Otilio met Janet while they were both in high school and fell madly in love. They eloped and got married in San Luis Obispo County after two years of noviando, in spite of resistance from both sides of the family. They became one of the first biracial couples in Santa Paula at a time when segregation was still strong. Janet, who was of Swedish and English/Scottish descent, spoke fluent Spanish and together they shared a love of singing Mexican songs with their Comadres that lasted throughout their marriage of 52 years. Janet died on Mother’s Day, 2003, and sadly, the music ended.

Otilio made his living as an operation-engineer for 15 years, and a member for over 50 years; working both at the SP Milling Company  in Santa Paula and later in the El Rio plant. At the age of 38, he broke his back while at work when a high catwalk swung out from under him, plummeting him several stories to the ground. He was in immense pain for the rest of his life, but kept working for SP Milling for five more years. With the help of great friends(Compadres) they were both able to overcome the emotional stress and strengthen their relationship. There friends(Compadres) meant the world to them.

His children cannot recall ever seeing any kind of repairman while growing up. Otilio could figure out how to fix everything: from appliances to plumbing; from cars to electrical devices. The Robles home was designed by Janet and Otilio built it from foundation to roof, with the help of his compadres and concuños. Everything from the intercom to the specially designed Japanese window screens were built by Otilio for the comfort of his beloved wife and kids.

Otilio is preceded in death by his wife Janet Elizabeth Robles (1933-2003). He was the very proud father of his four children, Daniel, Elena, James (Rhonda), and Anthony (Selena). His grandchildren including Andrea, Jeffrey, Edward (Kathryn), Marshall,Isaac, Selena, Alexis, Vincent and Rebecca.   He is also survived by his three great grandchildren, Elizabeth, Julianna and Eowyn, and his sister, Esperanza (Ben) Sanchez.

Services were held on March 25, 2014, at the Santa Paula Pierce Brothers Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Center for Farmworker Families at or by mailing to P.O. Box 957, Felton, CA 95018. 

Otilio and Janet’s children wish to thank family, friends and music-makers who made life so rich for their parents.

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