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Simona Montes Gonzalez, center, receives a proclamation from the city of Encinitas honoring her 95th birthday alongside Mayor Tony Kranz, right, daughters Rachel and Priscilla, back center and left, and great-grandson Roman. Photo by Laura Place
Simona Montes Gonzalez, center, receives a proclamation from the city of Encinitas honoring her 95th birthday alongside Mayor Tony Kranz, right, daughters Rachel and Priscilla, back center and left, and great-grandson Roman. Photo by Laura Place
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Community celebrates longtime Encinitas resident’s 95th birthday

ENCINITAS — Residents from Encinitas and Solana Beach’s La Colonia de Eden Gardens community recently gathered to celebrate an individual who has laid witness to nearly a century of history on the North County coast.

Simona Montes Gonzalez, one of 13 siblings, was born in 1928 in a railroad section house in Encinitas to parents who had immigrated from Mexico, celebrated her 95th birthday at the Encinitas Elks Lodge on Saturday with dozens of family and community members.

The celebration included food, music, dancing by Ballet Folklorico Jalisciense, and a proclamation from Mayor Tony Kranz.

“This tiny but strong woman is a loving, passionate mother of four, grandmother of 11, great-grandmother of 20, and great-great-grandmother of one with one more great-great-[grandchild] on the way. She raised us to love Our Lord, to love family and to be a positive community member,” said Gonzalez’s daughter Priscilla Gonzalez Rojo.

Ninety-five-year-old Simona Montes Gonzalez dances with great-grandson Roman and Ballet Folklorico Jalisciense instructor Elba Montes at her birthday party on Saturday at the Encinitas Elks Lodge. Photo by Laura Place
Ninety-five-year-old Simona Montes Gonzalez dances with great-grandson Roman and Ballet Folklorico Jalisciense instructor Elba Montes at her birthday party on Saturday at the Encinitas Elks Lodge. Photo by Laura Place

While she calls her 95 years a blessing, Gonzalez said she plans to continue celebrating future birthdays.

“Thank you all so much for coming, and hopefully, I’ll be here next year and the next year, and the next year,” she said to cheers from her family and friends.

Gonzalez’s story began near the corner of Coast Highway 101 and what had not yet been named Encinitas Boulevard, in the railroad section house that would shake whenever the nearby train would pass. Her father worked as a foreman for the Santa Fe railroad. She and her siblings would move to many locations throughout California and San Diego county following railroad work opportunities throughout her young life.

“I have so many memories of the schools and the new friends I made,” she said, remembering the periods she spent in Vista, San Diego, La Jolla and even areas of San Bernardino County.

Her family eventually made their way back to Del Mar, and she went on to attend San Dieguito High School Academy, where she met her future husband and the love of her life, Frank Gonzalez.

After graduating from San Dieguito in 1946 and marrying the same year, they moved to the nearby historic community of Eden Gardens, where much of her husband’s family lived. She was an involved community volunteer, serving as the first Girl Scouts leader in Eden Gardens and as team mother for the local Little League team coached by her husband, who came close to the national championships in 1965.

They moved back to Encinitas in 1960 into a home where Gonzalez still lives. She spent many years as a housekeeper to make ends meet for her four children.

Her husband died in 1996, just 10 months before their 50th wedding anniversary. However, Gonzalez recalled how even after his death, she remained deeply connected to the Eden Gardens community where he was from.

“I loved Eden Gardens. I want to thank all of you who treated me like one of you and not like someone from somewhere else,” she said to the crowds at her party.

The proclamation read by Kranz recognized Gonzalez’s long history in the city and her contributions to the community.

“In her quiet yet powerful way, she has paved the way for other generations,” Kranz said.

Details of Gonzalez’s life have also been featured in “We Made San Diego,” a book by Maria E. Garcia highlighting the historical contributions and life accounts of the region’s Latino community members.

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