Let’s Talk Clovis: Ike Herrera, 1925-2016, Man of honor, dedication and service

By Peg Bos, Clovis Museum

It was “cotton season” in Mendota (November 18, 1925) when Demetrio and Maria Herrera welcomed their son Ike (birthed in a tent). A royal celebration was held when his father (sent to buy groceries) returned with five gallons of wine. Ike’s family members were seasonal farm laborers and moved often as they followed seasonal harvests.

Ike’s family arrived in Clovis in 1919 and continued their seasonal work. His dad began farming (1931?) a ranch on a “50/50” profit agreement. Ike and his friend Walker Moore would walk two and a half miles (each way) to attend Garfield Elementary School. Ike completed the eighth grade at Clovis Elementary (Pollasky Ave between 1st and 2nd Street).

He wanted to help support his family (seven sisters) and did not attend Clovis High School. When WWII began when he was 16 year old, Ike persuaded his dad and mom to give him permission to enlist in the Navy.

Ike was assigned to destroyer U.S.S. Dewey and survived nine major Pacific battles at: Rabaul, Lae & Salmaua, Truk (New Guinea), Soloman Islands (Coral Sea), Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Guam and Okinawa. Twelve enemy warships and 32 merchant ships were sunk at the battle of Truk Lagoon.

While on leave in 1943, Ike purchased 2.5 acres ($900) at Barstow and Woodworth. He built a home for his parents (923 DeWitt).

On December 18, 1944, Ike’s ship was caught in a tropical typhoon: “The barometer dropped to 2730, the wind rose to 125 knots, mountainous waves towered over the tiny vessel causing a roll to starboard many times. At the climax, the ship was subjected to a roll of 80 degrees plus.” Ike strapped himself to the deck gun (MK 30) and rode out the storm. He was discharged on April 5, 1946 as Gunner Mate, 2nd Class.

Ike combined his interest in cars with his adventurous and competitive spirit to become a race car driver from 1947 to 1955. As a member of the West Coast Jalopy Racing Association, he competed at Clovis Speedway (Clovis Rodeo grounds, one fifth mile dirt track built inside the half mile course), Merced, Selma, Chowchilla, Visalia, Tulare and Hanford. He rolled his first car (#161) seven times.

Some of his Clovis racing buddies: Augie Niehaus, Cliff Stewart, Pete Victory, Jim Jolly and Clyde Pricket. The Clovis drivers would “hang” out at Rex Phebus’ gas station at 7th and Clovis Ave.

After being discharged from the Navy, Ike worked at a winery for a short time. He was hired as “ditch digger” ($1.75 per hour) by Dean’s Plumbing. In 1956 he joined Independent Plumbing and founded his own company (Sudden Plumbing) in 1969. His two sons, Jack and Jerry, would also become plumbers. Ike retired in 1988.

Ike was an avid hunter and sportsman. He knew the best hunting and fishing locations in the Sierra Nevada. Dinkey Creek was a favorite spot to fish and camp with his family.

Ike turned his attention to real estate investments in 1954. He moved a home from the Fresno Tower district to 1148 Woodworth. He built equity in his homes and used that security to purchase additional real estate.

Ike defended his practice of painting his rentals yellow (orange trim). He had read that homes painted yellow (white trim) would sell faster. He selected orange trim as his “special touch.”

In 1970 he remodeled his parent’s home and pledged that all his rentals would receive the same quality maintenance. Ike reduced the rent of all his tenants (15 rentals) when the economy tanked in 2008.

Ike was very intelligent. He understood the City building codes and fees. That professional knowledge earned the respect of City staff.

Ike was inducted into the Clovis Hall of Fame in 2002. He remains a Clovis Legend. He is a part of our rich heritage.