'Father of Yuma' left legacy of many descendants
Jose Maria Redondo is often called the father of modern-day agriculture in Yuma County, the first to divert water to grow crops previously unheard of in Arizona. That includes lettuce, now a multimillion-dollar global crop for Yuma County.
He also in credited with being the father of the Yuma Territorial Prison, today a state park that draws thousands of visitors through its gates each year.
In addition, Redondo was an astute businessman, operating a mercantile, bakery, saloon, hostelry, stables, flour mill, meat market, river ferry, winery and hearse service. Culture and education were important to him as well.
He ordered Yuma's first piano, played the harp and brought French and Spanish tutors here to enhance the education of his family and the community. Politically active, he served several terms in the Arizona Legislature and at the time of his death in 1878 was the mayor of Yuma.
Today his legacy lives on, not just with his accomplishments but with his descendants.
It takes a flow chart — actually several — to track those in Yuma who can trace their roots back to Redondo. He had eight children, and many of them went on to have large families of their own. They married other prominent early-day Yuma residents and established their own legacies.
It's kind of like the “six degrees of separation” game. Pick a Yuma family member and see if you can trace them to other families and back to the same family again.
One example starts with Bruce Gwynn. A fifth-generation Redondo, he is descended from Redondo's daughter, Luz. She married David Balsz and had twin daughters, Lila and Catherine.
Lila married prominent pioneer businessman E.F. Sanguinetti. Their daughter, Rosemarie, married Howard Gwynn and had sons Bruce and his older brother, Howard.
Bruce's son, Ross, married Sarah Montoya. Her father's sister, Carmen Green, is married to Rex Green. He is the uncle of a Corona family member, who is a cousin of the Gwynn family.
Luz Redondo Balsz' other twin daughter, Catherine, married another pioneering Yuma businessman, A.T. Pancrazi. They had several children, among them twins Bob and Ernie and John. Bob is the father of real estate agent Tom Pancrazi and his siblings.
John was the father of Mike Pancrazi, whose wife Lynn is a state senator. Their daughter, Angie Pancrazi Moreno, is the new Yuma County treasurer.
Yuma County Supervisor Lenore Lorona Stuart also is a fifth-generation Redondo. Her great-grandfather, Francisco, was Redondo's oldest child.
Other Redondo descendants who live in Yuma include Alex Garcia and Helen Ayala and Mary Ann Ayala.
Much of the family history was preserved through the efforts of Lenore Stuart's mother, Mary Redondo Lorona, and another relative, Lorraine LeRoy Merkel.
“There are so many different families,” Lenore said.
To get to know each other better and help preserve their collective history, many of them have gathered each year for a family reunion. The last reunion was in February 2012 and marked the first Redondo Day held in conjunction with Yuma Crossing Day. At least 80 people attended the family reunion, some from as far away as Oregon.
This year's event will be held Saturday on Madison Avenue at the Sanguinetti House.