by Paul R. Spitzzeri
This morning, Josette Laura Temple, a devoted and dedicated preservationist of her family history and longtime Homestead volunteer, was laid to rest at El Campo Santo Cemetery. Her interment brings to a close the use of the family burial ground dating back at least 165 years, with the first documented funeral taking place on 11 November 1855 as David Workman, brother of Homestead founder William Workman, was laid to rest there.
Josette, who would have turned 84 on the 27th, passed away on 28 October and it was long her wish to be buried near her parents, Walter P. Temple, Jr. and Nellie Didier, who died within a few months of each other twenty-two years ago, and her grandfather Walter P. Temple, Sr., who, in June 2002, was reinterred at El Campo Santo, over six decades after he was buried at Mission San Gabriel. Josette oversaw many of the arrangements for the burial of her parents and the re-interment of her grandfather and it was only fitting that she be placed at rest in the fenced plot near them.
Born in what was then Puente in 1936, Josette was an only child and she was also quite proud of her French heritage, with her mother’s father, Casimir, being an immigrant from the Haute Alps region of southeastern France. Her father, though mostly away at boarding schools when the Temples owned the Homestead during the 1920s, met Nellie Didier when she was a teller at a Puente bank and he joked that, when he saw her behind the counter, he couldn’t remember whether he was there to make a deposit or a withdrawal. The couple was married in 1934 and remained together for sixty-four years.
Josette was raised in what was then still a rural town, but, by the time she graduated from what was then Puente Union High School in 1954, the area was undergoing a rapid conversion into suburbia, with tract homes popping up rapidly and an industrial corridor soon underway in what became the City of Industry, incorporated in 1957 when Josette was studying at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. She graduated the following year and became an early woman computer scientist, working with massive mainframe machines for defense companies. She was in that industry for some thirty-five years, lastly with Rockwell-North American in Anaheim.
Briefly married and soon a widower, Josette retired and returned to La Puente to help care for her aging parents, who purchased a Craftsman home once used to house nuns associated with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where Josette was a faithful parishioner for many years and where her grandfather donated a large rose-shaped stained glass window in an older version of the church. While she professed to have had little knowledge of her family history when she was younger, certainly true for most of us, she gradually developed a passion for it, with her father carrying on a role as caretaker of family memorabilia in his later years and then passing the torch to Josette.
Over the years, especially after her father passed away, Josette became an even stronger advocate for the preservation of Workman and Temple family artifacts and jumped at every opportunity to learn more about family history. She also was generous in loaning papers, photos and other material to the Homestead for events, programs and off-site presentations. Though, as was her father, averse to public speaking, she frequently talked about her family to our docent training classes, often in tandem with David Workman, a great-grand nephew of William and Nicolasa Workman, who passed away this last March. She was also a Homestead volunteer for many years, working with our Collections Care Group helping with exhibit preparation, care of the Workman House and La Casa Nueva and other “behind the scenes” tasks, which brought her closer to her family history, and she was a regular presence at the information table for our weekend festivals such as the Victorian Fair and Ticket to the Twenties.
Long a member of the Temple City Historical Society, Josette, like her father, greatly enjoyed taking part as an honored guest at the Camellia Day parade in the city her grandfather founded in 1923. She was also active with the La Puente Valley Historical Society and the Rancho La Puente parlor of the Native Daughters of the Golden West. Another historic site she enjoyed visiting was the Rancho Los Cerritos, where her great-grand uncle Jonathan Temple, who came to Los Angeles in 1828, built the adobe house there a little more than fifteen years later. Because of her family’s longstanding connection to the Mission San Gabriel and the City of San Gabriel, she also had a strong connection there.
As she aged and experienced the physical problems that go along with that, she was less able to volunteer and attend events, but she continued to maintain her avid interest in the Homestead and the history of the Workman and Temple families. Though she worked with the early iterations of mainframe computers, she did not have her own personal computer, but she learned to use her phone to access this blog and, more recently because of the “stay at home” orders with the pandemic, to attend meetings involving the paid and volunteer staff. She always looked forward to knowing what the latest news was from the museum and it will take some getting used to not hearing from her about the next event or other happenings related to the Homestead and her family history.
This morning’s ceremonies were conducted by Father Matthew Cumberland (the area in England called Westmoreland where the Workman family came from was adjacent to the old county of Cumberland and both are now part of the county of Cumbria) of Josette’s parish church of St. Joseph’s. Her godson and executor, Michael Kalend, put in a great deal of work to organize the burial ceremony and my colleague Robert Barron was invaluable in assisting with on-site arrangements with much help from Square Root Landscaping for preparation.
Though it was cool and foggy earlier in the morning, it cleared up considerably, the sun came out, and it was a pleasant temperature by the time the service was conducted and Josette was laid to rest near her parents, grandfather, cousins and others, marking a true end to an era.