GARDENING SEASON Refugio “Cuco” Chavez stands under a lemon tree in the garden at his San Juan Bautista home March 21. Photo: Michael Moore

For San Juan Bautista resident Refugio “Cuco” Chavez, the first day of spring doesn’t just mean he gets to spend more time in his home garden over the coming months. It is also the wedding anniversary of he and his wife, Esparanza “Espie” Chavez.

The couple celebrated 52 years of marriage on Monday, March 21. Early in the afternoon, when a Free Lance reporter walked by their home on Fourth Street in San Juan Bautista, Cuco was tending to one of the scores of plants in their yard while Espie was relaxing on a bench swing under the garden’s canopy of branches and leaves.

Cuco eagerly offered to stop his work and give a brief tour of the many flowers, shrubs, succulents, orchard trees and more—a variety that wraps around the home and that he cares for daily. He proudly pointed out a number of just-bloomed flowers that he looks forward to each year with the arrival of spring.

SUNNY ANNIVERSARY Refugio and Esparanza Chavez relax outside their San Juan Bautista home on March 21, which was their 52nd wedding anniversary as well as the first day of spring. Photo: Michael Moore

The couple also have a few chickens that lay eggs on the property, and their pet dog, Sparky.

Farming and gardening are in Cuco’s blood, as he grew up on a small farm not far from his current home. A U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, he is now retired from careers with PG&E and as a barber.

The Chavez’s have lived in their Fourth Street home for 46 years, where they raised their four children who are now grown up with families. The younger generations still live nearby, giving the couple ample opportunities to spend time with their 11 grandchildren.

“We love it here,” Espie said. “It’s wonderful.”

For the first few days of spring in San Benito County, the National Weather Service is predicting warm temperatures with highs in the 70s through Saturday, with partly cloudy skies on March 26. Chances for rain will increase slightly through the week, and high temperatures are forecast to drop to the 60s on Sunday, March 27, according to the NWS website. 

Refugio Chavez takes a look at some of the plants growing around his San Juan Bautista home March 21. Photo: Michael Moore
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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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