Dad was born on May 31, 1934 to Elisa Pesl de Cimera and Vicente Cimera (the first), emigrants who had come to Argentina, separately, from what is today the Czech Republic. Upon emigrating into Argentina, the family name was changed to Cimera so that it could be more easily pronounced. The original name was something like Zimmer. Dad was born in the little town of Hudson, a city in the south of Greater Buenos Aires, near the coast and on the Rio de la Plata. Dad’s parents had been followers of the Reformer, John Huss in their native land, but had found the Advent message in Argentina and had joined the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement before Dad was born. Dad was the second child in the family; a younger brother to his sister Emilia. Dad used to tell us that the house he grew up in had a dirt floor, but his mother always keep it extremely clean. He also spoke of going to the markets to sell produce from their garden for his mother. Dad also told us that while he was still quite young his father had died. Dad had been in his late teens.
When Dad was about 25, he decided he wanted more adventure and maybe more job opportunities, so he and his friend Benjamin Burec set sail for America. They arrived in Florida, and proceeded to take the Greyhound bus to Sacramento, where they would work in the clay pits near Moriah Heights, making bricks.
After spending some time working in Sacramento, Dad decided to go off on his own and make his own way, independent of the church. He moved to the Bay Area, and set up his own business. During this time he met Johanna Straub. They met at City College, while both of them were studying English. Johanna had come across from Germany to be a Nanny in San Francisco for a family with five children. They fell in love and got married in April of 1961. They both adopted more English names; Vicente became Vincent, and Johanna became JoAnne.
Mom and Dad set up house in San Jose. Here they had three children. Dad and Mom had wanted three boys, and they only had boys names picked out when each of us was born. However, they ended up with three girls: firstly, Karen Elizabeth; then Deborah Cheryl; and finally, Michelle JoAnne. Dad was a very proud father to his three girls and loved us even more than he would have loved his boys. Down the track, he ended up with four grandsons instead—Jordan, Jared, Wally, and Ryan—and one granddaughter—Melissa. He was so proud of his grandchildren. He had such fun with all of them. They remember him always smiling and often joking with them.
Dad’s native language was Spanish–Castillian Spanish, he would say—and it was hard to follow him when he was speaking to his sister. They rattled it off so quickly. Dad also knew Czech, Portuguese, German, and Italian. He could understand Polish and Yugoslav. He really had a gift for laguages. And in his illness, he often reverted into Spanish, sometimes Portuguese, and occasionally Czech. It was good that we could understand a bit of Spanish and Portuguese. I would tell him, “Dad. I can’t understand any Czech. Can you please talk in Spanish or English.”
As we were growing up we learned to enjoy the benefits of having a father who was a builder. We would go to his jobsites and slide down the dirt mounds and have our own excavation sites in his sand piles. Poor mom had to deal with the washing afterwards. We also played with bits of wood and learned to use hammers and screwdrivers at an early age. Dad was a general contractor and mainly built homes. We earned pocket money helping him on site with small jobs he gave us to do.
As the three of us girls grew older, Dad wanted more and more to reconnect with the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement, the church of his childhood. While we were young, we occasionally went to the annual Field Conferences in Sacramento. As we became older, our trips became more frequent, until we were going once a month, usually when there was potluck. Dad’s sister, Tante Emilia, her husband, Uncle Manuel Dumitru (brother of Daniel Dumitru), and Dad’s mother, Grandma to us, all had moved there, and we would visit them as well. When I was 18 we all joined the church at Sacramento, as a family.
Through the years dad helped out the church voluntarily. He served as Field Leader of the North-West US Field for 12 years, from 1988-2000, regularly traveling up to Sacramento on Sundays and Saturday evenings for meetings. He also had a special burden for the Moriah Heights church property. It had become neglected and the buildings very run down. With the help of others and especially the then Brother and Sister Johnson, the property became transformed. From dirt roads, weeds and run-down trailer homes, it has become a beautiful property with more modern prefabricated homes, paved roads, and beautiful gardens. Dad spent many a Sunday working there, leaving at 4:30 am with two of his workers and driving the 2 ½ hours there, working all day, and driving back only to work at his regular job on Monday. Dad also went to the General Conference Session twice as a delegate—I was able to be there with him part of both of those times. He also worked on the Finance Committee of the General Conference for a term.
In 2005 dad started having health issues. He needed a surgery, but was delayed due to a very low heart rate which necessitated a pace maker. He spent the rest of his life on blood thinners. Then not long after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The active, independent man suddenly could no longer drive or use his power tools due to the disease and the pace maker. It was so hard seeing Dad confined. In more recent years, he had to have night-time care, then most recently he had to go to 24-hour in home care. We were blessed to find three very lovely carers. They helped us to make Dad’s final days much more peaceful and enjoyable.
Dad had a very strong faith, one that has seen him through his long-extended illness. In the words of Karen, he was an icon of a man, and it was his faith in Christ that made him who he was. This faith was manifested in so many ways—in his love for Mom, in how he raised us, and in his dedication to the church. Even though he had severed church connections for a time, he carried with him the basic principles that had been instilled in him. Dad was a vegetarian, Sabbath-keeper, and tithe payer all his life. His life was one of unselfish ministry, inspired by the Saviour he loved and served.
Several weeks before his death, Dad had a dream and woke up crying. He said the Angel of the Lord had appeared to him and told him that he was going to die. When his carer told me of this, I cried. I prayed that God wouldn’t take him yet, because I wasn’t ready for him to go, and I was going to see him very soon. Every time I talked to him I told him, “Dad I am coming to see you soon.” God was good enough to allow me that privilege. I was able to see Dad on several short visits while I was there for Jordan’s wedding. The longer visits had become too much for him.
I called the house almost every day for the past several months. Dad couldn’t always talk because he was tired or just not up to it. Just before he died, I talked to him three times in a row. The last time was the evening before he went to sleep and didn’t wake up. A lot of times when I would call, Dad would hang up the phone by accident. He just didn’t have the full control of his hands with the disease. This last time he also hung up on me. But this time, he answered the phone when I called back, which he never did. He was so clear in his speech, which the Parkinson’s didn’t always allow. I was so happy to have spoken to him. He was so happy the last few months of his life. He had lost a lot of weight just before he passed away, but he still always had a good appetite. He loved his bread. Had to have it at every meal. When he went to bed for the last time, Lisamarie, his carer for that day, said that he was talking softly for a while, and then singing. Then he went to sleep. He passed away peacefullly in his sleep.