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WWII vet wouldn't move back to Bay Area
The late ventriloquist Edgar Bergen once said: "Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?"

Either Roque T. Alvarez of Ceres never heard that famous quip or he did and didn't believe in it. At age 93, he certainly has proved Bergen wrong.

Despite many personal tragedies and years of hard work, the World War II era Air Force veteran is still active around his Matterhorn Way house in Ceres - home since 1997 after fleeing the Bay Area. Roque's to-do list - including remodeling the house and improving the yard - was shorter than his health. Age has crept up on him, slowly, and sore hips are his primary impediment to chores around the house.

"When he's idle, he's grumpy," laughed neighbor Arlene Alejandre who looks after Alvarez.

"I feel okay except for my hips hurt," he said.

Roque changed doctors when the former physician told him, "Well, you're 93, what do you expect?" His current doctor gave him hydrocortisone shots to help out.

The veteran was a bit disappointed, however, that the DMV rescinded his license when he missed one question on the written test.

"I guess they think that old men can't drive anymore. I can still drive like anybody else, heck yeah."

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Roque had an unsettled childhood. His mother died when he was three while giving birth to a brother. Because his father moved around a lot to find work, Roque's roots never went too deep. He came to California from Montana in 1938.

While driving trucks in Fresno, Alvarez was drafted into the Second Air Force after World War II broke out at Pearl Harbor.

"They grabbed me," said Alvarez. "I didn't have a choice. I realized it was my duty to serve the country and I was okay."

Alvarez was back in Texas training at Sheppard Air Force Base. He was then assigned to the motor pool in Topeka, Kansas, and only served overseas a few days driving in the Philippines. After the war's end in 1945 he was discharged from service in Lincoln, Neb., and came home and his father died in 1947.

Roque found work on farms in San Leandro, Stockton and Fresno and also worked on the GM plant assembly line placing doors on cars. He later drove new vehicles from the plant to dealers in California until he retired in 1976.

"I am sure I went around the world."

His first marriage didn't work out after 20 years. He jokes that he gave his ex-wife the house in Castro Valley "for Christmas." He later married Teresa, his wife since 1966. Ten years later he formally retired but his work ethic kept him going.

"He used to be more active," said neighbor Irene Alejandre, who looks to Roque as a father figure.

"We're like family now, not just friends," said Irene, adding she befriended the couple 24 years ago in the Bay Area.

How the two families ended up in the same neighborhood about 100 miles away is partly a matter of coincidence.

The two families met through a restaurant business. Roque and Teresa owned and operated El Patio in Fremont for seven years.

"We got old, I guess," said Roque in describing how the business came to a close.

Teresa, however, wanted to keep working and asked Irene's mother, Arlene Alejandre, also now in Ceres, if she could have a job at her Burrito Bar in the Hub Shopping Center in Fremont. She faithfully served until the restaurant closed.

Irene lost her husband seven years ago and desired to come back to her roots in Livingston. However, Ceres became home since it was centrally located between family members in Manteca and Livingston.

The Alvarezes would occasionally visit a niece in Hughson and stop by to see their old friends.

Meanwhile, Roque had a growing angst about living in an urban area.

"It was getting too crowded over there," said Alvarez. "I didn't care for that damned Bay Area."

The Alvarezes put in a bid on a Turlock house but it fell through. They then took a look at a house across the street from Irene, made an offer and bought it.

"I never knew they came and saw the house," said Arlene. "He saw the possibility of staying busy."

Arlene was happy that old friends were new neighbors.

"I didn't know anybody here," said Arlene, "we didn't have any friends so I said, 'Lord, thank you.' I don't know what we'd do if they moved."

Thank goodness for good neighbors.