Ortiz & Tellez Family

Frank Ortiz was born in 1904 in Lehi, Arizona. His parents, Leo and Josefa, came from Sonora, Mexico and settled in the Mesa area in 1885. Josefa’s father, Rafael Mendibil, owned a livery stable in Chandler in east Boston Street in the early 1900s, in the area near today’s Fire Department Administration building. In the 1920s, Leo and Josefa owned a farm near McQueen and Ray Roads, but lost it during the Great Depression. The Shumway family later started a dairy there. Leo also worked as a freighter with a mule team, hauling materials for the construction of the Roosevelt Dam (started in 1906 and completed in 1911).   

Rosa Tellez Ortiz was born in 1907 in Tucson, Arizona, and her parents came from Tombstone and Sonora, Mexico. Rosa’s mother, Refugia “Cuca” Tellez, lived in the Goodyear/Ocotillo area in the 1920s. She met Ramón Tellez, who lived in Tempe, and they married. They owned a dairy farm on Pecos Road, approximately ¼ mile west of Arizona Avenue, near the Whitten farm. They later operated a gas station and a bar at their property on the southeast corner of Germann and Arizona Avenue.  Ramón had a hay baling and harvesting business, and he used his horses in the construction of St. Mary’s Church in 1932. A few years after Ramón died in 1949, Cuca sold the property and lived at 241 S. California Street until she passed away in 1967.

Frank Ortiz and Rosa Tellez met each other as children, and were married in 1940. Frank worked for Ramón, helping with the hay baling and harvesting business.  Rosa worked the chuck wagon, feeding her father’s approximately forty workers. Frank and Rosa had eight children:  Leo, Helen, Frank, Ernie, Alma, Josie, Carmen and Gilbert. They lived on south Oregon Street until 1947, when they moved to a 10-acre ranch on Willis and Alma School Roads. Frank farmed cotton and alfalfa on ten acres until 1955, when his failing eyesight made it too difficult.  He continued to contract out workers and machinery to other large-scale farmers for hay baling and harvesting.  He sold seven acres, but he kept the house and approximately 2-3 acres, which Rosa continued to farm.  In 1957, the Ortiz family moved to 99 W. Elgin, a home which is still in the family.  

The Ortiz children also remember the canal water pump in back of their ranch, in which the kids would swim and play. They would ride the “horsie,” which meant floating in the canal from their property over to Alma School and all the way down to Ocotillo, several miles away.  It was great fun, but the walk home was long! Social activities centered around the family, and according to Helen, “everyone was family.”  They would have family gatherings on the weekends, where the uncles would play guitar, and they would eat the food Rosa cooked for everyone. 

The Ortiz children remember many special things about their mother, Rosa. She gardened and owned a restaurant (Casita Café) behind Seton High School. In her single days, she was a ‘handyman’ for her family and worked as a carpenter, roofer, and painter for the rentals her mom kept.  The day Frank proposed, she was repairing a roof. She also enjoyed painting and used irrigation tarps as her canvases.  Taught by a local medicine man, she made her paints from the land using roots and beets.  In her role as wife and mother, she raised farm animals, grew vegetables and fruits.  She was industrious and practical, sewing clothes for all of her family and making reversible outfits (vests, dresses, skirts) for the girls.  “She did it all” according to the family, and this included delivering a neighbor’s baby one time when called upon.