Juan Pena, Jr.
February 19, 1969 - March 19, 2006
Born in Mountain View on February 19th, 1969, Juan had a very laid-back personality from Day One. His mom, Maria, would need to wake him for feedings and he slept through baths and diaper changes. He was the third of eight children. As a child, Juan stood out from the pack as the highly-spirited and passionate one. By the time he was 5, the family had grown to seven kids! He had the ability to stir the pot with his siblings yet fly under the radar of his parents.
Juan displayed his talent and creativity at an early age with a special affinity for cartooning. He soon had a collection of comic books, which his grandma Antonia preserved with great pride. He attended Saint Joseph School in Mountain View until he graduated in 1983. He spent those years creating life-long friendships with guys like Mike Veglia, Brian Vierra, Tony Viscovich, Peter McCarthy and Paul Murray. Juan was the type of guy who persevered in everything he did. Even though he wasn’t the most athletic kid, he played sports and loved to be part of the team.
Juan spent his high school years at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View. During this time, his love of music flourished. Juan started a huge record collection and spent his extracurricular time as a DJ at the high school radio station, KSFH. His large circle of friends grew to include Dino Vittoria, Gioni Bianchini, Tom Nowicki, Angel Viera, Lou Perry, Anthony Matusich, Jeff Minery, Matt Walterskirchen, Matt McGregor and many others with whom he maintained friendships to this day.
Following high school, Juan lived in El Paso and Denton, Texas while pursuing a degree. He made friends wherever he went. Among his Texan pals are Mark Treviz, Michael Johnson, and Dave. While in Texas, he loved to visit Austin, where he was exposed to new genres of music. His musical taste grew to include bluegrass, and especially the band “The Gourds.”
After several years, Juan returned to the Bay Area to be near family and friends. He especially wanted to be involved in the lives of his young nieces and nephews. He didn’t want to miss any important moments, such as birthdays (of which there were many), school sports, and Little League. Yet he would also visit “just because.” Juan was available at a moment’s notice to pick up his nephew, Anthony, and take him off his mom’s hands for some “guy time.” He was more than willing to treat him to a movie, a bite to eat, or just to hang out. The kids could always count on him for a quick joke, a sports-related fit, or a game of Scene It (which, of course, he always won – by a long shot!). He recently rediscovered “Schoolhouse Rock” videos while visiting with his nephew, Sam. They sang “Conjunction Junction” together and both knew all the words. Juan asked for copies of the series, to which his sister, Lydia, happily obliged. He was a fantastic uncle and will be terribly missed by all 11 of his nieces and nephews.
As a brother, Juan was the diplomat. He knew how to put a positive light on things and could bring humor to any situation. He remembered childhood events and reminded us of them at family get-togethers (which in our big family was often). He would make us all laugh with his sharp wit. He was extremely smart, well-read, and knew a little bit about everything. We always teased him about his knowledge of trivia and how he should be a contestant on Jeopardy or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” because he would shout out all the right answers. He was the “go-to” guy whenever we couldn’t remember something trivial (like the different cards in Mexican bingo) or when someone needed to settle a debate. Our family gatherings will never be the same without him.
As a son, Juan made his parents so very proud. His father Juan’s eyes would light up whenever he saw “Juanito.”
Juan’s Mother, Maria’s, personal tribute to her son
I consider myself a very fortunate person because I was able to have eight beautiful, healthy children. I was able to stay home and care for them. My memories of Juanito are so precious to me. He was a beautiful baby boy; very mellow, very affectionate. He knew how to get what he wanted and got it. Everything he did, from playing to working, he did with such a passion that he just amazed me. He was a great son and friend to us. We adored him and he adored us. He always told us that we were the best parents ever. He was loving, respectful, supportive, funny, outgoing, responsible, but most of all a son that any mother would have been proud to have. We had the joy of having him visit us in Texas for a week, which was not even enough time to enjoy him, but he managed to make every minute count. We went to Juarez and he was like a little kid. His eyes lit up whenever he saw things that he liked. He enjoyed every minute of his life. I will miss him for the rest of my life. He took with him a part of my being. To survive his loss I just have to remember that his spirit will live with us forever.
A Father’s Tribute
I am Juan Peña, Sr., Father of Juan. This is the most terrible time in my wife, Maria’s, and my life. To talk about my son, Juan, you get to use all the superlatives. He was a GOOD son, a good friend. He was a gentleman; he never had a bad word for anybody. He loved and respected his friends; loyalty and sincerity were the norm for him. Juan had a good sense of humor. He knew how to have fun in a healthy way. He was a little sarcastic, but in a very practical way. We all would argue who had better sarcasm, he or I. Juan, who I admired, was very proud of his heritage. To him, being Mexican made him a better person; made him what he was: a free-thinker. He loved all the complex Mexican cooking and made an effort to master it. He knew more about our traditions and our philosophy of life that I even imagined. Juan had a brilliant mind and had an encyclopedia of knowledge at hand all the time.
Juan in the superlative was a good MAN, a good son, a good brother, a good uncle, and a Good Friend. Until we meet again, Son, so you can return the piece of heart and the piece of our soul you take with you.
- Tu Papa
The activities that Juan pursued and enjoyed most recently include poker night with the Brown Bears and other friends like Mike Donnellen; Sunday football league with friends like Norm Janszen and Jeff Leo (his roommates); golfing whenever he could; Saturday night karaoke at Ron’s Farmhouse; and being a diehard SF Giants fan! Everyone who knew Juan was aware of his fanatic love of the Simpsons. He enjoyed good beer and classic candy, like Laffy Taffy, Jujubees, Milk Duds and Dots. A movie buff, Juan amazed us with his knowledge of film, from popular to independent to B-Movies.
Even his eclectic musical taste was to be admired. He could sing along to Frank Sinatra then turn around and sing a T-Bone Burnett or Gourds song without missing a beat. This talent came in handy when he entertained the masses at karaoke night. He also loved Mexican music as he did all things Mexican. Juan was proud to be Chicano. Viva La Raza.
Juan lived his life to the fullest. He loved to travel and was known for picking up and leaving town on a whim. He may not have gone far, but he made the best of his travels and created wonderful memories, like fulfilling his dream of seeing Fenway Park. He had many friends whom he truly cherished. We are fortunate to have had him in our lives, which were made richer in having known him. Our lives will never be the same.
Parents: Juan and Maria Peña
Siblings: Lydia Sherrill, Rafael Peña, Eddie Peña, Maria Lippert,
Nieces and Nephews: Rebecca Sherrill, Brian Sherrill, Candace Briggs, Vince Cortinas, Jr., Anthony Briggs, Alex Cortinas, Samuel Sherrill, Alyssa Cortinas, Hunter Lippert, Cassandra Sherrill, Tatyana Lippert