“Joe” Mauricio Rios is turning 100 next month and that is just something worthy to celebrate! What a milestone. Even up until his early 90s Joe was still playing tennis with us at Elder Park. Everyone knows that Joe and Yolanda always arrive early for our BBQs and reserve the table for the whole party! Joe is such an important icon in our community.
I interviewed several OG friends and most importantly his partner Yolanda Cordova. I got some great stories to share with you so read on!
Jose Mauricio Rios was born in Mexico City on January 15, 1923. He came to California in 1940-42 and went into the service. He served in the merchant marines. He lived a lot of his life in San Pedro. Joe had two brothers and a sister that have all passed away. He has outlived everyone in his family!
Yolanda: “Joe started playing tennis “by accident” when he worked as a body shop manager and somebody asked him to fix the car. Joe found out that car owner was a tennis coach and he played tennis at one of the homes of the movie stars. Joe decided to trade his auto body work for lessons. Through this connection, Joe actually met quite a few famous people. The body shop was in North Hollywood. He actually had worked for many body shops during that time. The movie star John Forsythe was one of his customers. Here is a picture of Charlton Heston, Brooke Shields et John Forsythe playing tennis!
Joe & Yolanda
Yolanda and Joe have been together since 1992. Yolanda met Joe at a best girlfriends wedding May 14, 1988. Yolanda recalls that it was “such a nice meeting and for some unforeseen reason” he attracted her attention. “Everyone that day from Steven’s steak house said to me “he is never gonna take you out” but eventually 3 years later they did go out and have been together ever since.
Joe playing tennis for over 50 years.
Interviewing Marion Aranita. (Marion was considered one of the strongest players in the community before she suffered some health issues.)
Marion : We used used to play in Rosemead early Saturday morning. Friday nights Joe and Yolanda would go dancing till 12-1am and then still play tennis early in the morning! Some of the people that played with us are Maria & Frank, Jesse and Virginia. They used to start at 7-8am and then I would came around 10am. The park was small with only two courts so it was like a closed park with a dozen people there.
Joe and Yolanda would get up at a church gatherings and dance Cumbia – I believe they won first prize at the church in Monterey park – St. Tomas Aquinas. And they would go to breakfast after church at Almansor Court Buffet or Marie Calendars in Monterey Park on Garfield.
Marion on Joe’s tennis: “When we first got together he did great. He was very good. He was always worried about the way he ate and careful about his diet but he drank a lot of beer. Modelo, it had to be Modelo and has to be in a bottle nothing in a can. One time I brought cans of beer and he wouldn’t drink it!”
John La Fotuna was his favorite partner. Pretty much every time we played there was a BBQ there and friends and one time someone brought a PIG, a Filipino player brought it and Joe put a tennis ball in the pigs mouth. We had A LOT of BBQs every Saturday. And Plenty of Beer! One time at the BBQ it started to rain and Joe said we can still drink and eat. One of the players, Jesse Rameriz lived only two blocks from the park and he went home and brought a big tent cover that covered up the pavilion so we could still stay and eat. Joe also played with Andre and Vietnamese Father Peter who taught at Don Bosco.
Interviewing Dora “Maria” Pena:
I met Joe at Emerson Park 1986 on the tennis court. They used to play tuesday and thursday at this park and Frank played over there. Frank took me over there and I didn’t know anything about tennis. They only played singles. Frank paid in Monterey Park but they would pick me up and would get to know everyone. Also Ed Leong and his wife Marcella and Hope all played during that time. Then Frank started teaching me at Arroyo Seco. This couple Hachi and Gale a married couple would come and play with John and Joe. Angie and Carlos started playing. Angie and Marion and Carlos and myself started to hit the ball back and forth. Joe and John finally asked Angie and myself to play mixed doubles. Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The Vietnamese players started coming to the courts and playing for money so we found another court to play.
We moved to San Angelo park in La Puente and made another gang there. A lot of people played with us. I would go after work and Frank got off early. We would play one or two sets and then go into our van and drink beer. All the time we would meet and drink beer. Jesse would also bring tacos to the van and talk and talk till 10pm! Imagine for 15 to 18 years we played in the La Puente park every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Saturdays we would finish playing tennis and go to Jesse’s house. Yolanda would bring chicharrones, Joe would bring carnitas. We drink Tequila and Vodka & Orange juice. Marion would drink Baileys. We would spend the who Saturday till 5-6pm and then go home and then come back the next day and play again. We would always have a Christmas party at Jesse’s house.
Joe told us that one time they tried to fix his teeth. One day Yolanda and bought chicharrones and Joe’s tooth broke. They decided to fix it with glue!! They glued his tooth back in. Believe it or not he is so quiet. He does a lot of things by himself. Both John and Joe were always backing each other up and both were quiet and never said anything bad to anyone. Just play tennis and drink! Other players who played with us were John son Grey and his the two grandsons – Ronnie, Vidal, Renee, Nacho. Hector Madrigale and Maria his wife. So many memories!
MOVING TO ELDER PARK (previously know as Grandview Park)
Marion: Many years ago Joe, Yolanda and the other players started going to Elder Park or Grandview Park as it was known back then. The people who used to play in La Puente with Maria and Frank changed courts. Paco and his brother Jaime, John Kuramoto and Rosa, and I was part of it. Carlos Valenzuela, Japanese Ted, Japanese Mike, Khash Matin was there. John Shishmanian too. Joe and Yolanda were the 7am seniors shift and leaving early in the morning when the 10am crowd would start showing up.
Interviewing Beverly Martin: Yolanda was a dancer and Joe and Yolanda often show their salsa moves and they were a good even at the park.
PK: I remember them dancing at the Christmas party we had at Beverly’s house a few years back as well. They were a huge hit!
Beverly: they played tennis together sometimes or someone would play music and they would dance in the park on the grass.
PK: I remember Yolanda told me how happy she was that Joe was getting older and that she could finally beat him at tennis now!
Joe now has two daughters, three grand kids, and two great grand kids. The kids and grandkids all call him Teo Pepe.
We celebrate the amazing life of Joe Rios! Cheers to you Joe!
Many thanks to all the friends who contributed to this story.
Christmas Lunch was a huge success! Thanks to all who attended! Special thanks to Laurie who organized it all! Thanks also to Mauricio who donated the cool metallic wine holder and wine as a fundraiser for our non profit LoveSetMatch!
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