Last updated: June 12, 2018
A "giant" in the world of California colonial history, Phil Valdez, Jr., passed away, May 10th, 2018 in Ukiah after a valiant fight with a long term illness.
Phil Valdez was knowledgeable on most aspects of colonial California but established himself as “the expert” specifically, on the life and times of Juan Bautista de Anza and the first overland colonizing expedition trail to California.
Valdez’s research on the Anza Expedition of 1775-76 tremendously increased the public’s understanding of California’s Spanish colonial history. He held a master’s and doctorate in Business Administration was a Marine veteran and worked for many years in the hotel business.
Valdez served as a historian advisor to the National Park Service for many years. A descendant of Juan Bautista de Anza’s courier, Juan Bautista Valdez, he was inspired by his personal connection and a deep respect for Juan Bautista de Anza. Phil logged thousands of hours and several thousands of miles retracing the 1775-76 Anza Expedition, identifying historic campsite locations and increasing the public’s knowledge of the expedition to California. While concurrently serving as president of the Anza Society, Inc., a volunteer organization, Valdez organized conferences for citizen-historians to share research and invite others to learn about our country’s Spanish colonial heritage. He organized the 2013 conference in Monterey, CA, that highlighted the Anza Trail in Fort Ord National Monument. The 2014 Anza Society conference occurred in the Mexican state of Sonora and brought dozens of U.S.-based Anza enthusiasts together with Mexican historians, anthropologists and several state and local community officials.
Image: Phil Valdez, Jr stands next to California Registered Historical Landmark No. 785 titled "Santa Catarina" in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Building on his relationship with Mexican Government officials from the state of Sonora, Valdez served as a symbolic representative of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail on several trips to Sonora in 2013 and 2014. During this visits, he developed strong relations with the Mayor of Arizpe, Sonora, as well as state and federal government representatives. Phil spent countless hours sharing his extensive knowledge of the Anza Expedition and more importantly catalyzing an interest in presenting the Anza Expedition story in Sonora, Mexico. Between Phil’s passion and local efforts, the Mexican agency Turismo Sonora developed La Ruta Turística de Anza, a counterpart to the Anza Trail in the U.S. In 2014, the town of Arizpe, Sonora, installed an interpretive wayside presenting Juan Bautista de Anza’s burial site.
Image: Phil Valdez, Jr stands in front of a mural during an Anza Society Conference in Sonora Mexico on March 6th, 2014.
Phil Valdez Jr. received the U.S. Department of Interior Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service at National Park Service Pacific West Regional Office in San Francisco on July 15, 2015. The Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service is given by the U.S. Department of the Interior in recognition of outstanding performance by a private citizen, organizational partner or volunteer. Valdez’s award recognizes his 12-plus years of service to the Anza National Historic Trail, including time spent as a goodwill ambassador for the trail in northern Mexico.
Image: National Park Service staff present Phil Valdez with the U.S. Department of Interior Citizen’s Award at the PAcific West Regional Office.
The citation of Valdez’s award follows:
For outstanding contributions to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Phil Valdez, Jr., is granted the Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service of the Department of the Interior.”
Long discussions, phone calls, comparative research and friendship with Phil will be sorely missed with those left behind, but for sure, we know, Phil Valdez, Jr. is having great discussions with Juan Bautista de Anza and the late Don Garate.
With love from his Californio cousins.