I thought I had my hands full with 3...
"Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
H/T The Divine Life
VERNON, Texas — Gregoria Martinez, 94, might seem like your typical grandma. She made quilts for her grandchildren, encouraged them to go to church, prayed for them, and gave advice.
Except the Vernon grandma didn't have just a handful of grandchildren when she died Tuesday.
She had nearly 300.
Ninety-eight were grandchildren; 164 were great-grandchildren and 16 were great-great-grandchildren — all descendants of her own 11 offspring.
That's without counting her three stepchildren or any of their descendants — or the three great-great grandchildren currently on the way. The family purposely underestimated the total count, but felt if all were included it could be as high as 500.
Actually, they have been losing track. Now, with nearly half the family attending the funeral Wednesday, family members passed out index cards to update names and phone numbers while they had their chance.
Martinez's survivors packed the 500-seat St. Mary's Catholic Church in Quanah.
"Her numbers are pretty astounding," said Jesse Jalomo of his mother-in-law. "It's not no misprint."
The devout Catholic woman, whose husband, Ponciano, died at the age of 94 sometime after their 50th wedding anniversary, "could fill up our elementary school in Quanah with all the great-grandchildren and the great-great-grandchildren," Jalamo said.
And she knew practically all of them.
"If one of my sons would come up to see her, she'd say, 'Are you JJ?' He'd say, 'It's JJ, Grandma.' And she'd say, 'Are you doing right? Are you taking care of your family?'"
Family and faith were her two priorities — and she insisted on talking about both with everyone. But not by telephone. "She'd say, You come to see me, face to face. You want to speak to me, you come to my house, and you drink a cup of coffee with me."
She didn't preach about the benefits of large families, but did believe she was brought into the world to multiply.
"You know Catholics," said daughter Elva Jaloma.
When Gregoria was raising her children, she and her husband were migrant workers, traveling to Wisconsin to pick tomatoes and cucumbers, then back to Texas to pick cotton.
"They had 11 kids, and raised 14, and not one time did (they) draw a food stamp, a welfare check, or an unemployment check," Jaloma said of his in-laws. "They didn't believe in that. They said, 'If you want something, you work for it.'"
Elva, the youngest of the 11 children, said her mother believed a wife should have a meal cooked when the family returned at the end of the day. "Then you wait on your husband hand-and-foot when he returns home."
Only in later years did both Gregoria and her husband work as custodians at a nearby hospital.
Long marriages run in the family, with many grandchildren logging 20-, 30- and 40- year anniversaries.
"They planted something very nice, very family oriented," Jaloma said.
Nearly three-quarters of the family live in Quanah or nearby, but the rest are spread as far away as Arizona and Missouri.
Quanah's Percilla Montes, 20, said she remembers picking pecans off the tree at her great-grandma's house and going to church with her.
"She always said that family was the most important thing, next to God."
Great-grandchild Montes said she knows about half of her family members.
"I'm part of a big crowd," she said. "I'm used to being in a big family."
She spent time listening to her great-grandma. Listening, not talking.
"She was kind of stubborn. What she said, goes."
Rick Martinez, the oldest grandchild at 50 and the oldest of 10 children in his family, remembers childhood visits to her home when she took him into her bedroom to give him a piece of fruit or a dollar to spend at the nearby convenience store.
He took more than 800 photographs at her funeral. A manufacturing operations manager in Tuscon, Ariz., with Raytheon, he will compile them into a life celebration DVD, then distribute them to family members.
The theme of her life was clear to all, he said.
"Look, this is what it's got to be," she would say to each one. "You've got to have God in your life, and then have peace between you."