Before the Mothers’ Day Dinner, the Basque Foundation honored Cecil as the 2019 Legacy Award Winner for a lifetime of dedicated service to the Basque Foundation by preserving and continuing our Basque culture and traditions.
Before coming to the US, Cecil Jayo endured a precarious time during the Spanish Civil War in the Basque Country. From his hometown on Murelaga, he, at age 13, clearly remembers hearing the bombs being dropped on Gernika. He was 15 when he left home with his two brothers to come to New York, then west to Boise by bus. None of them spoke Spanish, so things were not easy for them.
When Cecil was 18, he was called up to serve in the U.S. Army. He later rose to the rank of sergeant, which served him well. He became very comfortable “giving direction” to others.
When Euzkaldunak was founded in 1949, Cecil got involved from the beginning to help work on the building. This was the start of decades of support for his Euskal Etxea which he was so proud of.
Starting in the 1950s, he bartended for various events at the Basque Center for 19 years. He also assisted with janitorial duties. Besides helping with the scheduling and judging of Mus and Briska, he played Mus when he was not judging. Cecil and his partner Nick Beristain won the Euzkaldunak Mus Tournament – TWICE! Following Carmen Solasabal and her term as Rental Manager for 20 years, Cecil was the Rental Manager for Euzkaldunak during the 1970s, often doing it remotely from home.
Cecil served on the Euzkaldunak Board of Directors from 1955 to 1962 and was vice president in 1961. In addition to all this, for 30 years, Cecil’s was the voice that could be heard ringing out across Municipal Park calling kids and adults to come join in the games at the Basque picnics. Since Cecil knew almost everybody, his jokes and comments about the participants in the games made the Basque Center picnics from 1955 until 1985 pretty memorable. In 1949, Cecil took part in the original production of “Song of the Basques”. Cecil can talk to anyone. His kindness and his jokes have always been his trademark. If somebody needed directions or other help, Cecil was always your man.
His favorite feast day is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Besides being a greeter and an usher at St. John’s Cathedral for many years, he was the unofficial greeter for Basques attending the Mass during the San Inazio weekend, especially during Jaialdi years. He loved taking part in sharing his beautiful St. John’s Cathedral with visitors from the Basque country.
And finally, Cecil co-hosted the Basque Radio Program from 1955 until 1972. After 2 years, he was joined by Espe Allegria. She hosted the program in the winter and Cecil hosted the program in the summer. At first, the program was only aired in the winter from 8 – 8:30 PM on Sunday nights, but because the Basque community as well as the sheepherders in the field were so appreciative, they began broadcasting year around. For his broadcast, Cecil used Julian Lachiondo’s records and others that were donated to the radio program in memory of deceased Basques. Occasionally, Jim and Domingo played some jotas and other live on-air. At that time, KBOI’s signal was so strong that the program could be heard in all Western States from Canada to Mexico. Cecil really was a lightning rod for news and information. He was often advised by phone and letters from friends and family about what was going on in the Basque country. Visitors to Euskadi would return and relate interesting information for Cecil to share on the radio program.
Eskerrik asko Cecil. You have been a hard worker for Euzkaldunak and a hard worker for our entire Basque Community. Biotz biotzetik, maite zaituztegu.