Anna Soto, Presente! A Personal Tribute

On July 26, 2019, Anna Marie Soto, daughter of Nell and Phil Soto, passed away suddenly at the age of fifty-eight. She is survived by her husband, Reggie; her brothers, Tom, Patrick, and Michael; her mother’s sister, Ginny; and many nieces and nephews. Anna was kind, fierce, and loyal. She was a devoted public servant, and she followed in the footsteps of her parents by giving all of herself to her community and family.

I worked with Anna last summer, helping her assess her parents’ collection of papers and memorabilia and helping transfer some of the materials to the CSRC, where they are held as the Nell and Phil Soto Papers. About every other Saturday, I would go out to Pomona, and we would go through the family’s storage units, sorting out which materials would go into the CSRC archive, which would be retained by the family, and which would be donated to other organizations. Also there to help was family friend Joshua Lopez and, sometimes, her niece Danielle Soto. We would meet early in the morning at Bravo Burger, just off the San Bernardino Freeway on White Avenue. We would have breakfast, then head to the storage unit, which was not too far away from the Pomona fairgrounds.

Those hours at the storage unit were long, hot, and sweaty, but I remember them fondly. I would bring boxes and other supplies, and also speakers, so we could listen to music from the 1960s and 1970s. Anna said I had an old soul and the same taste in music as her mothers’. As Joshua and I would labor, Anna would tell us stories about her parents—how they met, the family business, road trips across country, and what it was like when her parents ran Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign in California.

By end of the summer, Anna was more than a donor. She was a friend and mentor. We worked on a few more projects together, like the ground-breaking ceremony for Nell and Phil Soto Park (only blocks away from Bravo Burger). The park is still in the works. It’s being built where the old Park Avenue Hospital used to be—the hospital where Anna was born. It saddens me that she won’t see the park finished, but I know that it’s a testament to her hard work and love. The park is emblematic of her parents’ spirit and hers. It’s emblematic of their belief that in order for our youth to grow and flourish, we need to give them the tools and the space to bloom.

I will miss Anna’s laughter, her tough but loving demeanor, and her boundless support. I will miss her advice and guidance. I will miss her pep talks and her mentoring. I am incredibly grateful to have known her and to have been part of her story. Her legacy will live on, not only within the memories of friends and family but also in the papers of her family’s collection, which is a research and teaching tool that will help future generations grow and flourish.

- Xaviera Flores, CSRC Librarian and Archivist