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San Juan Loses a Historic Son

Floyd "Ditty" Nieblas passed this weekend.

The family of Floyd Hugo "Ditty" Nieblas announced Tuesday that he passed away after a lengthly illness on Saturday.

Nieblas was born on Oct. 27, 1926 to Ventura Garcia Nieblas and Joseph Nieblas.   

Nieblas descends from pre-Mission native and early California rancho families. His great-grandparents were Jose Delores Garcia and Maria del Refugia Yorba Garcia, builders of the first victorian house in San Juan Capistrano, what is now the location of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. So begins Floyd's long, rich history in this valley.

He was raised at Las Rosas, the former Casa Grande where his mother ran a Spanish/Early California restaurant for many years. He attended old Mission School until eighth grade, graduating in 1940 with other locals, such as Norman Belardes, Viola Lobo, Carmen Oyharzabal, Ernestine Sanchez and Manuel Paramo to name a few.  

On March 19, 1936, at 10 years old, Nieblas and his classmates sang "Good Morning Mr. Swallow" and "As I Stroll Through the Old Mission Gardens" as part of the first St. Joseph's Day that was broadcast by NBC from the sacred bell garden at the Mission.

He was very active in sports, especially basketball. In fact, returning to coach boys basketball team of seventh and eighth graders from the 1950s-60s. Along with being an altar server in the historic Serra Chapel, he spent his summer vacations selling wildflowers seeds gathered in the hills to the Mission visitors for five cents a bag.  

While attending old Capo Union High School, he worked for a short time with Carmen Oyharzabal at one of the Mission ticket booths, graduating in 1944. He enlisted in the Navy against his parent's wishes and served in WWII.  

In 1949, he married Mariruth Kester from Capistrano Beach. He worked for Mission San Juan Capistrano for over 42 years, many spent as the Mission's business manager. He raised his children to have a deep respect for the church, and the Mission stands today, in part, because of his devotion.

Nieblas was the patriarch of his family. A quiet gentleman, proud of his Juaneño/early Spanish, rancho California heritage, proud to be a veteran, proud to show his patriotism, possesing a strong work ethic and steadfast faith. He never wanted to be involved in city politics, tribal issues or clubs, avoiding those conflicts. He instead, relied on the supportive, strong, lifetime friendships that surrounded him.  

He was always loyal to the original Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, never forgetting their support by the uprising upon his release as an employee of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Even in his final days, his words ran strong, his spirit was committed and his courage inspired his family.

The great bells in the old Mission Campanario were rung to honor his passing 10 a.m. Tuesday by traditional Mission bell ringer, Mike Gastelum. The rosary is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday Nov. 8 in Serra Chapel. The funeral Mass will be 10 a.m. Friday Nov. 9 in Serra Chapel with a traditional Capistrano funeral procession to the graveside.

Nieblas' children are grateful that he can be laid to rest among family and lifelong friends interred at the Old Mission Historic Cemetery. He began his life in San Juan Capistrano, and he will rest now in San Juan Capistrano.

Nieblas is survived by his wife Mariruth, his five children: Floyd Jr., Jerry, Declan, MaryAnne Nieblas Lanssens and DiAnne Nieblas Zampirro; 13 grandchildren; nine great-granchildren; one great-great-granddaughte; brother George, half-sister Alice Gastelum and many nieces and nephews.

Submitted by,
Janice Pickartz-Family spokesperson for the Nieblas family

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