Lost At Sea
Jesse Ibanez Vicera was born in Naval, Leyte, in the Philippine Islands, in what is known as the Visayan Islands. His father was the principal of the local school, and his mother took care of the family of 13 children: Soledad, Marcelino, Jesse, Esteban, Purificacion, Corazon, Amparo, Ernesto, Consuelo, Luzvimen, Norrita, Virgillio, and Renato. His parents also provided for others, such as relatives who were orphaned.
Jesse left the Philippines and helped the United States by joining the Merchant Marines in 1944. He traveled to many foreign lands: Pearl Harbor; Okinawa; Galveston, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Trinidad; Brazil; Paraguay; New York; San Francisco; Korea; Sydney, Australia; Abadon in the Persian Gulf; Germany; France; Italy; Tunisia; Spain; Gibraltar; Algiers; Cape Town, South Africa; Norfolk, Virginia; Los Angeles; Hong Kong; New Zealand; Shanghai; England; and others. His diary chronicles his journeys, and lists the names of each ship – his homes away from home.
Jesse subsequently married the beautiful Claire (of German, French and Italian ancestry) after meeting her at a dance hall in New Orleans, Louisiana. They had two sons and two daughters and later moved to Linden, New Jersey. His first born son received his name, while his second son was named after Jesse’s father and one of his many brothers: Esteban (also known as "Steve"). While at sea, Jesse studied to advance in his career. Before his last journey, he planned to buy a house in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The most important part of Jesse’s life was his family. Jesse enjoyed being with his wife and children when he was not working at sea. He especially savored baseball, both as a participant and a spectator, and took his children to ball games. Boxing was another of his favorite sports because his family in the Philippines always had professional boxers, and still does. At least two Viceras have made it to the Olympics. Seeing motion pictures with the family at drive-in theaters was always something to count on when he returned from his voyages. Fishing and catching crabs in nets was yet another activity for the family, followed by cooking and eating the catch. Jesse shared his family with other friends, and they would all gather their families for picnics and barbecues at parks and beaches. Living close to New York City also provided family trips to local attractions there, and to purchasing food items in Chinatown because Jesse loved to cook, and was a wonderful chef. Jesse could also sew. In addition, Jesse strummed on a guitar and sang songs, including "Lemon Tree," and "Peg ‘o My Heart."
Jesse consistently sent some of his income to his family in the Philippines, and his wife sent care packages. Jesse was fluent in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Visayan (a Filipino dialect). He stressed the importance of education to his children, and would review their school work when he was home. He also wanted his children to some day see the country from which he emigrated, and to meet all of his relatives. He described the open fields where he enjoyed horse back riding and playing with his siblings and friends. He also talked about the treacherous typhoons. And although he would paint the most beautiful pictures of his birth land, Jesse showed a passionate love for the America in which his children were born. Also a serious, sensitive, and spiritual man, Jesse ensured that his children attended church on Sundays.
Jesse’s last seafaring journey was on the SS Marine Sulphur Queen, a tanker carrying molten sulphur, and a crew of 39 men from various parts of the United States. The tanker was bound for Norfolk, Virginia from Beaumont, Texas, and was last heard from on Feb. 3, 1963, when she routinely radioed her position. The message placed her near Key West in the Florida Straits, in an area known as "the Bermuda Triangle." Three days later, Coast Guard searchers found a solitary life jacket bobbing in a calm sea 40 miles southwest of the tanker's last known position. No other sign of the missing tanker or her 39-man crew has ever been found. Subsequently, all men were declared deceased. Many books and reports written about the Bermuda Triangle (also known as "the Devil’s Triangle") discuss the disappearance of this tanker, its cargo and its crew.
It was very difficult for Jesse’s surviving family for a long period of time because there was always that hope that somehow, in spite of the stormy sea, a probable explosion, and shark infested waters, he succeeded in using his excellent swimming skills – the skills he used for pearl diving in the Philippines -- and made it to a safe harbor. And because of that hope, there has never been a memorial service for Jesse, and there is no marker on any grave site. Therefore, this "virtual memorial" is very important for his family and friends, and is the commencement of memorializing and paying tribute to a most wonderful and loving husband, father, brother, grandfather, and friend. It is time to celebrate both his life and his death.
As of March 1999, Jesse is survived by Claire, one son, two daughters, and three grandchildren, as well as siblings, nieces, nephews, and other relatives all over the world. It was also extremely difficult for his family to lose one of Jesse’s sons, Steve, who also has been included in these virtual memorials.
This was composed in loving memory of her father, by Debbie.