Eleanor Pauline Walsh Martinez Birney passed away peacefully at her home in San Gabriel, California on January 16 at the age of 94, with many of her children at her bedside.
Eleanor was born on August 24, 1918, in Bakersfield, California to Genevieve Buletti-Walsh and Joseph Walsh. Her mother passed away when Eleanor was only three, so she and her younger brother Joe were raised by her grandmother Paolina Buletti-Rossi and father until her father married Eleanor Grieving. The family soon grew with the birth of Rita Mary Walsh. Eleanor attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Elementary School, Bakersfield High School, Hollywood High School, finally graduating with honors from Belmont High School in Los Angeles at the young age of 16.
Eleanor would have gone to college, but with the Depression ongoing her father needed her to work in his soda fountain/restaurant business to help make ends meet. She often said that she would have liked to become a nurse or a teacher. Instead, Eleanor’s life took a different path, with her meeting the love of her life, Charles (“Charlie”) Pizarro Martinez III. She was just 15 and he was 20 and lived next door in Hollywood. She used to walk by his house on her way to school and Charlie would whistle at her and she would call him “fresh” – and of course a romance bloomed. They eloped on January 24, 1938 to Yuma, Arizona combining their honeymoon with a business trip for Charlie’s recently purchased business, McCabe Silversmiths.
Doctors told Eleanor that she could never have children, she proved them wrong many times – 10 to be exact, starting with Chuck in 1939, followed by Gini, Cathy, Terry, Melinda, Tom, Patti, Jim, Joe and Bill in 1958. Eleanor was a caring and devoted wife and mother, and an excellent cook, passing on her skills and recipes to her children. Charlie and Eleanor began raising their children in Hollywood, then built their first house on Hesby Street in North Hollywood, and thereafter moving into the former Weddington Family house also in North Hollywood where Charlie planned to move his business. During these years, the family enjoyed many holidays at their mountainside cabin in Crestline. Sadly, Charlie passed away in 1960 at 46, causing Eleanor to embark upon the next phase of her life, including a new job with the State of California and raising her children on her own until she met and married Elwood Birney in 1964. Elwood had three grown sons so the family grew to 13 children.
In 1968 they moved to La Crescenta and together they ran Elwood’s Floorcovering business until 1992 when they retired. Eleanor and Elwood spent many a summer entertaining at home by the pool, camping with the family throughout California and Baja California, and in later years travelling the country in their RV. Elwood passed away in 1997, and Eleanor once again took up a single life, first living in Montrose and eventually moving in with her daughter Terry and her husband Jon in San Gabriel to spend her final years.
Eleanor enjoyed a longtime membership in the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, holding many offices, ultimately becoming Regent of Court Saint Jude in Montrose and later a State Officer, maintaining longtime friendships through this organization. She always was the life of the party and opened her home to family, friends and her children’s friends who knew there would always be good food and friendship with Eleanor around.
Eleanor was preceded in death by brother Joseph Walsh and her oldest son Charles Martinez IV. She is survived by her nine remaining children, Genevieve Martinez-McLoud, Catherine Martinez-McBroom, Theresa Martinez Birney Tardino, Melinda Martinez-Birney Nielsen, Thomas Martinez-Birney, Patricia Martinez-Birney Christopher, James Martinez-Birney, Joseph Martinez-Birney, William Martinez-Birney; and stepsons Elwood Birney Jr., Robert Birney and Michael Birney, and their spouses, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews, her sister Rita Mary Hannah, her cousins Ruth Rossi-Keegan, Bill Rossi and Pauline Rossi-Lewis, and too many good friends and extended family to count. Eleanor will be dearly missed by many and will remain in our hearts forever.
Viewing will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at Crippen Mortuary, Montrose, CA. Rosary Vigil to follow at 7:00 pm.
A funeral mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, followed by a reception in the parish hall. Graveside service at San Fernando Mission Cemetery.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful caregivers from Med Care Plus Hospice and Eleanor’s longtime caregiver, Toeti.
In lieu of flowers, you may prefer to make a donation to The Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Court San Ysidro Number 1507, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Tujunga, California.
- The following obituary information was provided by Eleanor Pauline Walsh Martinez Birney's son, Jim Birney.