Labor of love

Staff photo: Kevin Wilson Sal Maestas, front, and his uncle, Robert Gutierrez, dry off a car Monday afternoon at the Hilltop Plaza. The two were part of a family effort to defray funeral costs for Julia Maestas, Sal’s mother and Robert’s brother.

Staff photo: Kevin Wilson
Sal Maestas, front, and his uncle, Robert Gutierrez, dry off a car Monday afternoon at the Hilltop Plaza. The two were part of a family effort to defray funeral costs for Julia Maestas, Sal’s mother and Robert’s brother.

By Kevin Wilson
Staff writer
kwilson@cnjonline.com

The Maestas family didn’t have any particular plans for Labor Day, but they were probably going to do something as a family.

Then the not-so-unexpected happened. The family said good-bye Monday morning to Julia Maestas, a mother of eight, grandmother to 26 and great-grandmother to 34, with many of them in Clovis.

Julia, who was known for her love of singing with her grandchildren, had been sick for the last few weeks. When she passed away at 7 a.m., the family decided to do something as a family — raise money to help defray funeral costs.

“We just wanted to help out,” said Sal Maestas, one of four sons. “Funds are hard to come by.”

Monday afternoon became a labor of love, with Sal among about two dozen family members putting on a car wash at the Hilltop Plaza parking lot, a few hundred yards south of Barbara Ann’s Day Care, where Julia worked as a teacher.

While the youngest of the children held posterboards advertising the car wash to the traffic going by 21st Street, the tweens and teens washed the cars and the older members of the family dried. Between cars, the family relaxed while the fathers had to break up the occasional water fight.

Another part of the family, Sal said, was busy selling burritos to do its part. The family planned to work from noon to 5, with estimates of around $200 collected near 2 p.m.

Robert Gutierrez, Julia’s brother, said a benefit dance is in the works as well, but was still locking down a band and a location.

The Labor Day holiday was a little less busy for others throughout the day, including some people who were calling it a work day.

Across the city at Hillcrest Park, a grandmother took her child to the splash park and asked why the city’s pools weren’t open but the splash park was.

“Only the best facilities are open,” Larry Holland said with a laugh.

As the grandson changed for the splash pad, it appeared he would mostly have the run of the place with only one other child using the facility. At the counter, with part of the wall serving as the lost and found department for a pair of glasses and a single shoe (and accompanying poster, “Missing: Solemate”), workers admitted the splash pad’s last day for 2014 was rather slow. Holland said it wasn’t a surprise, since the park is normally closed on Mondays.

“We’ve had a good summer,” Holland said.

A short walk away, the Potter’s House was having its own tradition with about 50 church members at the rental facility by the former zoo entrance. The members switched between volleyball, ultimate frisbee, soccer and taking cover under the trees when the cloud cover left.

“It’s a good church event,” Pastor Peter Aulston said. “A lot of friends, a great way to fellowship with people.”

Aulston said the twice-a-year picnic, with the other celebration on Memorial Day, had been going on for more years than he remembered, while other church members remembered the event going somewhere between 15 to 20 years.