Toronjos help keep history alive
He worked at a store in Orangefield. She went there often, on errands for her mother.
That’s how Walter Toronjo met Juanita Sarver. The couple recently celebrated their 65th anniversary.
The Toronjos have been with the Orange County Historical Society since 1983. Walter served as president for many years, and Juanita as secretary. The group publishes the quarterly magazine Las Sabinas. The recent issue features stories on Frank Hatton of Bridge City, Levingston Shipbuilding Co. and the usual chronicle of recent deaths.
Starting in March, the group will change its regular meeting time to 6:30 p.m. first Tuesdays at the Orange library. Meetings are open to the public.
“We are devoted to the history of Orange County, and we welcome anyone who will write an article for us,” says Juanita, 84. The magazine began publication in the early ‘70s.
Walter went off to World War II and became a member of bomber group the Bungay Buckaroos in Bungay, England.
“The estate [of our airfield] had belonged to some rich guy,” says Walter, 85. “It had been in his family for several hundred years.”
Juanita started work at Orange Bank in 1943, and gained a reputation as a fast typist.
“They didn’t have pregnancy leave back then,” she says. “If you wanted children, you had to quit your job. So after I had one of my babies and had been off for a few weeks, my boss got word to me through a coworker that he expected me back ‘ … on Monday.’”
Nowadays, Juanita types her Las Sabinas stories on a computer. In the ‘90s, she continued her history interest by compiling “50 years ago”-type columns for a weekly paper in Orange.
Walter flew 30 bombing missions over Germany, and his crew never lost a man. Once, a gunner caught a shell fragment through his gun sight and Walter had to provide first aid.
“We were like brothers,” Walter says of his crew. “We could have stopped flying anytime, but the idea was to do enough for what was called ‘a tour.’ If you quit early, you’d get garbage detail and things like that.”
He came home in the spring of ‘45.
“We were stationed at Ellington Field and we lived in Houston five months,” Juanita says. “And that’s the only time I wasn’t living in Orange County.”
Walter eventually became supervisor of postal operations at the Orange post office, and retired after more than 30 years.
The couple have two children: David Toronjo of Hunstsville, a medical doctor; and Annette Allen, a counselor at Orangefield Elementary School. They have seven grandchildren. Active in Winfree Baptist Church (where Walter serves as a deacon), the Toronjos are also members of Orange Christian Services.