By JONATHAN LEIJA
San Benito resident
was born Nov. 28, 1918, which made him just an infant when one of the deadliest pandemics the world has ever witnessed, the Spanish Flu (H1N1), claimed an estimated 50 million lives worldwide.
According to Mares, at that time, the Spanish flu was similar to today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Although his parents, and most of his immediate family, contracted the Spanish Flu, they were able to overcome the illness.
Mares attended Fred Booth Elementary up until he reached the second grade, at which point he quit school and began working in the fields, picking cotton, tomatoes, and watermelons with his family. According to Mares, earning money for the family was more important than education in those times.
Recently celebrating his 102nd birthday in the midst of this latest pandemic, Mares has proven to be a survivor, which includes a stint in the U.S., serving during World War II.
In 1941, when he decided to join the Army, he initially only wanted to sign up for one year, but he ended up serving almost five.
Mares said, “I completed all my training in Boston, Massachusetts, then got sent to a New York harbor, where they filled up many boats with uniformed men and sent us to North Africa so that we could invade Italy. We invaded Italy in the darkness of night; the only light we had were the lights of bombs.
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