Saturday, August 23, 2014


Bobby Taylor was Born on the 5th of July. You won't find much anywhere about Bobby Taylor's life. Oliver Stone never made a mega Hollywood film celebrating his life story.. However, one can find Bobby's (Robert Thomas Taylor) name on the Vietnam War Memorial, along with the names of 58,000 other young men and boys who were killed in action. Bobby Taylor's life lasted all of twenty years.
Forty-four years later, Bobby is still remembered in the minds and hearts of those whose lives he touched. Facebook users, friends, neighbors who grew up during the 60's, knew him from their tightly knit Bishops Bend neighborhood. Mention his name, post something on that site about Bobby on Memorial Day--or any day-- and those same Babyboomers and neighbors relive some of their fondest memories of Bobby Taylor. Memories that will live on forever but were stolen from him at such an early age.
Bobby was the runt of the bunch of the Boys from Bishops Bend but that didn't stop him. He didn't back down from a Westside bully who wasn't pleased that he and some of his friends started socializing and dating girls from St. Mary's parish. He and girlfriend Denise were quite an item--a made for each other couple.
The Bishops Bend boys were heavily into sports. There were few days that they didn't play pickup basketball games--come rain, shine or snow. Shoveling snow off the basketball court, or anywhere there was a hoop attached to a pole or tree was where they gathered.
Summertime brought an opportunity for these young Babyboomers to play organized baseball games in the Boys Club league. Bobby wasn't afraid of being hit by a fastball, played aggressively and insisted on playing third base--the "Hot Corner" in baseball jargon.
In 1967, a handful of friends approaching draft age gathered on the embankment by the playground basketball court. The mood had changed from the happy-go-lucky days that these friends shared growing up to a more somber note. The topic of discussion was Vietnam and the seemingly unending war that they'd soon have to face. It was decision time for those who dropped out of college due to financial reasons and those close to draft age.
After a visit to the Army recruiter, the plan was set in motion. Some of the Bishops Bend boys decided to join Uncle Sam's Army under the "Buddy System"--where the Army would keep them together during training for as long as possible. By enlisting for three years, the chances of going to Vietnam as a  combat infantryman were unlikely. They would receive training as behind-the-lines backup support soldiers and, according to the recruiter, quite possibly not be sent to Vietnam at all.
A group of Bobby's childhood friends committed to enlist in the Army for three year. Bobby, however, who once talked about joining the Marines, chose to "Take his chances with the draft". Three years to eighteen and nineteen year olds seemed like an eternity. A two year commitment, if drafted, was more appealing to the brave young man coming of age in the late 60's.
Bobby Taylor was killed in action in Vietnam on February 27, 1970.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Fifty years ago, George Ray and some of the residents of Guadalajara began to toy with the idea of a Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) chapter in Mexico. Many of the Alliance for Compassion boys (see article below) had been living in Guadalajara for a number of years, while still maintaining membership in their chapters back home. California PVA for the Long Beach crowd and Vaughn Chapter PVA for the boys from Chicago, with a sprinkling of PVAers from other chapters.   A PVA chapter in Guadalajara would serve to unite all who wished to participate.  In addition to helping the kids at the orphanage, it would be helpful to have a functioning veterans' service organization in Guadalajara to better serve those specifically disabled with spinal cord injuries who chose to visit or make Mexico their new home.  It would also add clout and purpose to the ragtag group of Gringo neighbors from the North who some locals still viewed as nothing but a bunch of drunks and womanizers

On April 21,1964, a group of 18 paraplegic and quadriplegic veterans met at the home of Mexico Chapter "founder" George Ray in Chapalita, a suburb of Guadalajara, to form the nucleus of Mexico Chapter of the PVA.

At the initial meeting, a slate of officers was elected:  The following officers were elected until the end of the fiscal year ending June 30. President, William M. Bailey, Vice-President, Charles J. Miller, Secretary-Treasurer, George Ray, Board of Directors appointees Charles J. Ceska, Lee Schlyer, Stanley Prucnal, and Donald Evans.

The new group adopted the by-laws suggested in the booklet, "How to Run a PVA Chapter," and had applied for affiliation with the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

All eighteen were very enthusiastic about the prospect and all had pledged membership as soon as they could get a chapter.

The pledged members were:  Bill Bailey, Charles Joe" Miller, Robert Krekeler, George E
Ray, Edward G. Lucier, Donald Evans, Carroll Stodgel, Lee Schyer, John P.Nichol, Stanley Prucnal, Charles Ceska, Bob Barret, Bob Beske, Chuck Derevjanik, Robert Enge, Ken Perry, George Small, Marion Fuget and Bob Powell.

On June 17, 1964, the Mexico Chapter, Paralyzed Veterans of America became a reality and a new era was born. George Ray's vision had again brought results, much as his foresight and efforts had in enabling so many disabled individuals to realize a new life South of the Border.

(Alliance for Compassion members Marion Fuget and George Small, surrounded by orphans from Jalisco's state run orphanage, Hospicio Cabañas. Circa 1963)

Paraplegia News - June 1964

Wheelers Throw King-Size Party for Orphans
By John Reese


Those guys are at it again.

The same incorrigible bunch of American quadriplegics and paraplegics who gave the big Christmas party at the state orphanage took 300 of the kids for an all-day picnic and swim at one of the newest and most beautiful resorts here, Los Camachos, in the spectacular setting of the wild Barrancas.

This was an even more ambitious project than the Christmas posada. It meant transporting everyone but the nursery babies 15 miles out into the country, feeding them all day, providing lifeguard protection in an acre of clear mountain water in a blue-tile pool, and getting them all back, exhausted but happy and safe, that night.

3,200 Pesos Raised

The paraplegics “Alliance for Compassion,” as they now call it here, raised 3,200 pesos in one of the quietest fund drives in money-raising history.

What baffles everyone in the big American colony here is that nobody seems to want any credit, nobody wants his name in the local papers, nobody even wants to admit he was a part of it. Nevertheless, although only 18 contributors showed up to see their money at work, it is known that “around 30 or 40” donors contributed.

The picnic was unprecedented in the 177-year-old history of the Hospicio Cabanas, the state orphanage. The kids drank 900 bottles of soft drinks and ate three-quarters of a ton of food. They kept the pool filled in relays, some of them wearing swim-suits paid for out of the paraplegics money.

Record in Foreign Aid

When you figure that the cost per kid was only about 10 pesos - that’s 80 cents U.S. - you're getting pretty close to a new economy record in Foreign Aid. It couldn't be done, but they did it.

The attention this “impossible” act of charity drew makes the American paraplegics one of the most influential groups in the big American colony here. From now on, their support is going to count heavily.

After the success of the Christmas party, it was relatively easy to line up help for this. The American School and the Municipal Police contributed the buses. State and Highway police detailed men to help handle the kids. A big brewery brought in folding tables and chairs, set them up, and hauled them away afterwards.

From page 150: QUADALAJARA --- The Utopia That Once Was

2006 Distinguished Book Award - FIVE STAR Rating
Military Writers Society of America (MWSA)
Presented at San Diego Salute to the Military, July 2006

2007 Honorable Mention Award from the Hollywood Book Festival, "Celebrating books worthy of greater attention from the film and TV industries"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Ray Cliffort enjoys 'un dia de campo' at Recreational/Picnic area Chimulco about 15miles outside of Guadalajara

Monday, January 28, 1980. “¿Quién es Jack?” inquired the tall, fair-complexioned man with wavy brown hair wearing a long tan coat. The intimidating man moved as would someone of authority. I was seated with my back to the wall opposite the front room fireplace, in the process of raking in multicolored poker chips won on the very first hand I had played. A second man, wearing a short brown jacket with a noticeable bulge on his right hip, positioned himself by the game room doorway. It was approximately 10:00 p.m. The apparent ring leader and point man handed me an official looking document written in Spanish, as Joe Anderson and others asked me who they were. A sense of extreme nervousness overwhelmed me as I attempted to read the paper while being peppered by questions, initially from my friends, and now from the interrogating official. “Departamento de la Defensa Nacional” was stamped at the top of the bogus document. I had sufficient experience with cutting and pasting articles for Mexico PVA's El Sombrero News to realize that the supposedly official document was nothing more than an amateur attempt at legitimacy. The “official” seal had been cut and pasted. I had never heard of“Departamento de la Defensa Nacional.” The paper listed my name (spelled incorrectly) in the first sentence, followed by a number of charges, including drug possession and distribution, prostitution, gambling, pornography, and more. There was also mention of me going to Mexico City to face charges. The misspelling indicated someone had set us up, as all official chapter correspondence with my name on it looked nothing like the hatchet job now being done on my Polish surname. As chapter president (having taken office on June 14, 1979), I was now the alleged ringleader of this notorious band of dangerous quadriplegics who had settled in this fair city to rain evil of all sorts upon the populace.

I wasn't given time to read the complete document. The extreme nervousness had long since turned to a feeling of fear unlike any, save for a few isolated incidences that I experienced while on duty in Vietnam.

By this time, the second man had moved into the game room, and another man took his place at the doorway. The third man was the most menacing in appearance. He was a short and heavily built ranchero type with a large droopy mustache, wearing a multicolored sarape, and brandishing what members later described to be a .30 caliber carbine complete with banana clip. The second man, who looked familiar and spoke English fairly well, had begun the process of taking possession of poker chips, cards, and eventually the wallets of my confounded fellow gamblers.

I was taken from the game room as the interrogation began in earnest in the hallway leading to the Mexico PVA chapter office next door. As I opened my mouth to answer, I was literally speechless; no words in either Spanish or English passed my lips for a long moment. Asked for my wallet, which I never carried in Quadalajara, the intimidator readily settled for approximately $200 worth of pesos that were in my shirt pocket.

Once inside the chapter office, the man questioned me about some of the listed charges, specifically gambling and pornography. The high stakes poker game was the worst kept secret in Quadalajara. Everyone knew about it, and any Clubhouse visitor could readily see playing cards with stacks of poker chips on the game room poker table. It was a wonder the game hadn't been “raided” since 1971.

The desk of the official chapter office was open. Macario, Gil Turetsky's helper (who I later learned was rifle-butted when he bravely asked if these men had a right to be doing what they were), had borrowed the key to the desk so that he could retrieve the phone lock key for Gil to make a local call. The phone lock was kept to prevent people from making expensive long distance calls. With the desk open, another item, namely a book titled Sexual Options for Paraplegics and Quadriplegics that was also kept locked in the chapter desk, was visible. The book conveniently opened to an apparently often-viewed page depicting an aroused male quad engaged in an intimate sexual act with his able-bodied female partner.“¡Pornografia!” declared my interrogator. Could things get worse?
For the first time, the threat to take me to Mexico City was articulated. I was totally paralyzed with fear. The situation was getting worse, as I was pushed back into the Clubhouse game room where the “innocent” Monday night poker game had originated. Ray Clifford and Chuck Hawkins were the only players still engaged in battle across the chessboard when our visitors arrived. Monday night was Chess Club night and a convenient excuse for the diehard poker players to take full advantage of the game room and open kitchen facilities. Poker players outnumber Chess Club members by about 2:1. Some of the members and guests participated in both, as I did. I had just finished a game of chess when Bill Bailey and Bob Brassfield left around 10:00 p.m., opening up two seats in the first-come-first-served game of chance.

Within minutes, personal care attendants Javier and Ramon, were relieved of their valuables and told to join us. Teresa, our Clubhouse kitchen cook, and her waitress daughter Patti, were next. Once inside, the English speaker started questioning certain members. When he attempted to search the bag John Rogers carried on the back of his E&J, the slightly inebriated fellow quad voiced his displeasure. My buddy, the interrogator, quickly took charge and rifled through John's bag. Once he got past the stuff on top, he came across Roger's personal bottle of hot salsa and a suspicious looking bottle of pills. “¡Drogas!” exclaimed the interrogator. Indeed, the main intimidator had found Cevelin—vitamin C tablets that were supposed to make the urine more acidic and reduce the chance of urinary tract infections.

When the realization of how ridiculous he looked set in, both John and I were ordered back into the Mexico PVA office. More harassing questions followed, but the limited Spanish speaker and fuzzy thinking poker player was useless to Mr. Interrogator. Back into the game room went John, but the point man, up until now, continued past the doorway while physically leading me into the front room. Chess boards still sat unattended to as pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, king, and queen were frozen in time awaiting further orders from their absent human field generals.

The English speaking man was holding the keys to my '79 Cordoba. The threat of facing charges in Mexico City was repeated. I was now as scared as any time in my life.
“El Comandante quiere hablar contigo,”declared the interrogator. El Comandante? Wasn't the interrogator the leader of this gang of three? The rifle toting sarape wearer was guarding the main Clubhouse door. Could he be El Comandante?

"Dale una propina al Comandante,” the interrogator suggested.

“No puedo,” I responded. “Usted tomó todo mi dinero,” I added, surprising myself. It must have been an instinctive reaction. Where did I get off giving this man a semi-sarcastic response under these circumstances?

A medium height, graying man wearing a blue jacket appeared from nowhere.

“¿Tiene cocaína aquí?” El Comandante questioned. I had heard the word before, but wasn't aware of this narcotic and wouldn't recognize it if I saw it.

“No,” was all I said.

“Prometes que tu no vas a seguir està operación ilegal,” (referring to the drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography).

Si Señor,” I assured him, showing as much respect as my being could summon.

Te voy a dar otra oportunidad,” the fifty-something-year-old man announced.

Gracias,” was all I could say.

El Comandante and the English speaking man, who had entered the poker room approximately one hour before, walked out the front door. The interrogator motioned to the sarape wearing, rifle-toting “ranchero,” and he now physically pushed me back into the game room, semi-automatic on his right arm and my wheelchair handle gripped tightly in his left hand.

Once inside, the intimidating interrogator ordered, “No salgan de este cuarto hasta que yo les de permiso.”

Nine quads, one para, three attendants, and two kitchen employees sat around dazed, but able to freely speak for the first time since the hour long ordeal began. After about ten minutes, long-armed Joe Anderson used his functional right hand to slide open the double doors opposite of the main game room entrance.

One by one we filed out into the Clubhouse front room. All confiscated wallets lay empty on the long meeting room table, all except Paul Saine's, which I theorized might have been taken for identity theft purposes since it was close to the Spanish surname Sainz. Somehow, Joe Cella, an incompletely injured quad able to stand and take a few steps, had stood up and flipped his wallet from the poker table while sitting back down on top of it unnoticed.

I requested that all members, guests, and employees present list the valuables which our recent visitors had taken. Inventory revealed the following:

Total cash (pesos) 3,000
Total cash (dollars) 700
Camera (approximate dollar value) 85
Silver Coins (approximate peso value) 3,500
Traveler's Checks (dollars) 300
Check made out to “Cash” (pesos) 2,800

A total of over $3,000 U.S. dollars

Ironically, non-poker playing Ray Clifford, who had come for Chess Club and was waiting for the Clubhouse kitchen to close, was hit the hardest. Clifford, who didn't trust leaving his valuables at home and who had recently returned from the States, lost cash in both dollars and pesos, two troy ounces of silver, Mexican 100 peso collector's coins, and his camera. A good guy helping fellow members on Chess Club night, as well as one of Mexico PVA's most tireless workers, Ray Clifford lost between $700–$800 worth of money and property that night.

From Chapter 19 QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was

Saturday, September 01, 2012



I have been thinking lately that book reviewers are probably pretty darned stuck-up. How else can you close the covers on someone’s deepest feelings and defining moments as to who they were and are and decide while sitting in front
of their 17” lap top screen which ones were important? That is stuck up and as I finished this particular book I really struggled about what I could tell you that would make you search this book out and read it.

It isn’t your typical war story with blood and thunder. It isn’t about one man who takes on a whole platoon of enemy soldiers and takes out a machine gun nest single handedly with a grenade, rocket launcher and bungee cord. No, it isn’t anything like that. It is about a young man who went to foreign land to fight a war, but whose real battles began when he came home safe and sound and met the worst possible enemy in his own back yard.

I decided that what you should know about this book is what I hope we all will know about life and living it: That people can be heroes both for what they do and what they don’t do. It’s true. Living an ordinary life can be quite extraordinary when you do it right- when you do it at all...........

Jack was a regular guy who joined the military because he didn’t want to get drafted. He and his pals thought they had the system all figured out. But here is the craziest part of all; He went to Vietnam and if one can be lucky in the time of war, he was. He survived, probably mainly because his job was not a combat position. He came home, happy to be alive, looking forward to his sports car dream, maybe a girl and a job that did not involve a green uniform. He had
his whole life ahead of him. He got in a car with a friend who knew nothing about the perils of life and death in the jungles of Vietnam and the fact that his friend had beat the odds and took a car ride that would change his life forever. His friend drove him through their old stomping grounds all familiar and pleasant. It began to rain and his friend showed off, showing how fast he
could drive, then how the car could fish tail and then shockingly, how a Volkswagen can crash into a power pole and how one person can walk away from a wreck like that and another can be paralyzed.

I don’t wish to give you the reader’s digest version of the book, I want you to read it, but I will say that what I found most remarkable about this book is how the author tells about the seemingly ordinary things in one person’s life that become quite extraordinary to the reader when they realize they are things done by a man who has no use of his legs. A soldier who once had to run and crawl and climb, instantly transformed into someone quite different, sometimes
confined to a bed unable to move and partake in life. A soldier who once survived in a time of war with one dream - owning a fancy little sports car - now relying on the government actually taking him off active duty because he could no longer walk across a room. The story is heartbreaking for about five minutes, then it becomes one of the most uplifting stories about the simplest things you can think of - living a life!

At a time when a man could give up, become a turnip or a carrot and allow other people to attend to his every need until he had no needs, he took chances and thrived. At a time when you or I might fall apart, screaming and crying only to find out we cannot even have a proper tantrum because we cannot kick our feet - he rose up, standing tall, not with his legs, but with his spirit. He could have decided to lay down and die, but he decided to sit up and live. This author’s book is about living. So many people these days spend most of their lives existing and forget about the living part, taking for granted the simplest things, the biggest things seem so ordinary that they don’t even notice than one turn of the wheel, one ride in a car changes everything. Would you choose to live or would you choose to die? Do you have the fortitude to dig deep and find reasons life has offered or would you just stop breathing? Read the book, it
might change your whole way of thinking about things you never really though about before.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012


Jack and friend floating in 'shark infested' waters 20 miles south of Puerto Vallarta 1980

Hi Jack,

I received the signed copy of your book earlier this week...thank-you!! Just finished reading the book, WOW!! I had a vague recollection of hearing the name Quadalajara, must have been from Ron Kovac's movie Born of the Fourth of July. I am so happy that by chance I found your book and now have the true story. You have done a fantastic job!!

Anyway Jack, you and the group of guys in Quadalajara are a real inspiration! I hope one day to see a movie made from your book, it is warranted. I will be ordering additional copies of your book in the near future to share with friends.

Thanks again for the great read Jack!!

Glen G

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Sunday, March 25, 2012


Rancher to Caregiver

Jose Miguel Lopez grew up in the small town of Guachinango, Jalisco, Mexico--some 50 miles from Guadalajara. He got his first horse at age six. Walking and horseback riding were the only means of transportation on the ranch.

Hard work was something the men and boys of Guachinango were accustomed to. He’d been working with his father, brother, uncles and cousins since his pre-teens. The men capable of manual labor worked while the girls went to school. This was the life of many a rancher in Mexico--even at 12 years of age.

At age 21, he left the family ranch to work for his uncle in the Sonoran Desert...leaving family, friends and his favorite black horse, El Gato, behind.

In July 1969, after ten years farming in the Sonoran Desert he returned to Jalisco. Shortly after, Lopez saw a Guadalajara newspaper ad that caught his attention: “Drivers needed. Passport preferred.” The next day, he and his sister Aurora, a school teacher, found themselves at the once popular Villa del Sol. Miguel’s credentials so impressed Rogelio, his future boss, that Rogelio—assuming the five-month pregnant Aurora was Miguel’s wife, not sister—attempted to convince the young man he needed the job. He did. Lopez started his career as a caregiver the next day.

Villa del Sol was one of a half dozen group homes (which the guys affectionately referred to as “gimp camps”), where paraplegic, quadriplegic and other disabled wheelchair users could rent rooms or bungalows by the week or month.

Recruiting and training young Mexican males to work as caregivers for paralyzed veterans and non-vets had been a common practice going back to the mid-1950s. Long before Hoyer lifts and wheelchair adapted vans, strong and willing young men were lifting quadriplegics in and out of bed, the shower, their cars and up and down stairs—sometimes, wheelchairs and all.

Miguel Lopez would begin the learning process from day one as he was taught about catheters and other personal care needs of these American quadriplegics.

Lopez, as with many other attendants from the Guadalajara gimp camps, would eventually pair up with one person. In his case, it was Vietnam veteran Jimmy Lietz, who needed a driver. The passport would enable Lopez to drive him not only in and around Guadalajara but also accompany him on trips to the States.

By the end of 1969, Lopez had accompanied the young Vietnam vet to Manzanillo (a favorite fishing and vacationing seaport for Guadalajara’s growing para and quad community), as well as to Acapulco and Stateside trips to Las Vegas, Hollywood and Phoenix.

Miguel Lopez found himself assisting a travel-thirsty Lietz who, along with fellow vets Richard Jaros, Charlie Gilliam, and Peter Mirche, made up for time spent working long hours in the desert sun for Lopez and nightmarish memories of Vietnam and rehab at Walter Reed Army Hospital for Lietz.

There were lazy sunny days hanging around “Village of the Sun” for Miguel Lopez and Lietz, but not many. Time was not wasted as Lopez became acquainted and made friends with other attendants and friends of his new Gringo employer. Lietz formed lifelong friendships with other vets, among them Jaros, Gilliam and Mirche.

While Miguel Lopez had logged many miles driving for Lietz in and around Guadalajara with numerous trips to the ocean, a trip to the Washington, D.C., area where Lietz grew up, would be the most memorable. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

In the summer of 1970, Lietz was admitted to the Richmond (Va.) Veterans Hospital for an extended checkup. His father, employed at the Department of Agriculture, was able to arrange a special VIP tour for Lopez. The Mexican rancher turned field worker turned caregiver for a severely injured Vietnam veteran received a guided tour of The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, complete with a Spanish speaking twenty-something female tour guide.

In 1980, Lietz returned to the U.S. and settled in Tucson, Ariz., as old Villa del Sol buddies Jaros and Gilliam had before him.

In May 1981, Jimmy Lietz and Miguel Lopez took a short trip up the road to visit another friend they had met in Guadalajara. Jack Tumidajski lived in Glendale, Ariz. His caregiver, Sofia, just happened to be Lietz’s former girlfriend. The on again-off again relationship was on again. Guadalajara's "Mr. Fear-of-Commitment" finally popped The Question!

An impromptu wedding ceremony took place a few days later on Tumidajski’s patio. A number of Phoenix area friends and couples who met in Guadalajara attended.

Newlyweds Jimmy and Sofia Lietz would return to Tucson. After 12 years assisting Lietz, Jose Miguel Lopez would go on to help Tumidajski for the next 23 years.

Jimmy Lietz passed away in Tucson in 1994.


Thursday, March 01, 2012


The letter below, along with a related story, will appear in the April 2012 issue of the Paralyzed Veterans of America's PN Magazine. Anyone interested in helping preserve the history of this unique moment and place in time is encouraged to contact me with any ideas or assistance that they wish to offer.

Thanks, Jack


I first wrote to PN in August 2003 looking for info about and photos of the early Explorers and Pioneers of the Guadalajara Era (Mid-50's to Mid-80's), those paras and quads who first went to Mexico looking for freedom, independence and a second chance at life. I received valuable feedback, including info and photos which, combined with permission to peruse the Paraplegic News achieves, numerous interviews as well as my own experiences living in Guadalajara ('72 to '81, with many extended visits throughout the eighties and early nineties) allowed me to write and publish QUADALAJARA --- The Utopia That Once Was.

Since I believe this story is worth preserving--possibly in documentary form--I'm once again writing to PN in hopes that others, who may feel the same and have ideas (or the expertise) to keep the story from fading from history, might be interested in working with me on this project.

If interested, please view my website and/or contact me via or email

Thanks, Jack Tumidajski

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