Jess Maldonado Gallegus
Great Grandfather, World War II Veteran, National Guardsman, Career Barber, and among the last of The Greatest Generation.
Jess was born in 1922 in Newcastle, California to Mexican parents, one of 15 brothers and sisters. As a child, he was a hardworking member of the family,
CLP Jess Gallegus
traveling and toiling across California’s farm fields, picking grapes, prunes, apricots, and cotton. He always said it was a difficult time, and never forgot those early years.
At 17, Jess joined the Civilian Conservation Corps., cutting trails and chopping wood in the Klamath National Forest. It was there where he first tried cutting hair. He was good at it. Barbering would become a skill that would support him through his military life, from his days at Mather AFB through his time as an Army Corporal during the war in Europe. He even bragged that he once cut Eisenhower’s hair.
In fact, at 35 cents a haircut, Jess came home from WWII, lucky to be alive, and with a pocket full of cash. In 1945, upon returning home he told the captain, “I’ve got a lot of money here, what do I do with it?” And the captain said, “keep it.” It was enough to jumpstart Jess on the postwar road to prosperity.
Jess, Michael, Manny and Jimmy
Being a barber, and the owner of many different shops and salons over decades, would support his family for a lifetime. Generations of men and their sons knew Jess. He cut hair for 60 years, a million haircuts, by some estimates.
Jess married the love of his life Helen Valencia in 1946. They met as teens a few years earlier at a Valentine’s Day dance. They are survived by three children, Susan, Jim, and Manuel, six grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.
Jess was clever, charming, corny, cantankerous, eager and wise. Everyone he met it seems, liked him, and wanted him to succeed.
His military service was very important to him. Like many from his era, he experienced more by age 24 than many men would in a lifetime. He carried a wisdom and maturity with him, and never took his success for granted.
VIDEO OF JESS GALLEGUS’ MEMORIAL SERVICE – SEPTEMBER 24TH, 2012.