Ernest Marquez, A Palisades Treasure, Passes

Ernie Marquez at the family cemetery in Santa Monica Canyon. He was 94 in this picture, but in December, he once again was in the cemetery on a field trip with  Canyon School fourth graders.

In his book “Rancho Boca de Santa Monica: The 1839 California Mexican Land Grant, A History,” published in 2021, Ernest Marquez wrote about the family cemetery.

“Descendants from all walks of life come here for many reasons. They have a beloved ancestor buried here. They want their children to learn about their family heritage. Everyone has a unique, colorful story about their aunt or uncle who did this or that back in their days on the rancho. Within these white adobe walls one can see, smell and feel the natural beauty of Santa Monica Canyon, and hear the gentle, distant voices of those who have called it home through the centuries.”

Ernie, who would have been 100 on March 12, passed peacefully away on the evening of January 6 at Encino Hospital in hospice care.

Ernie is the lineal descendant of Mexican land-grant ranchers who owned the 6,650-acre Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, now encompassing large swaths of Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon.

Born in 1924 (near Canyon Elementary School), Ernie grew up on ranch land in Santa Monica Canyon, which by that time had been sold off by his ancestors.

He spent time at the beach and playing in the nearby creeks and on the bluffs. He attended the one-room Canyon School and was one of four children in his grade.

He attended Santa Monica High School and after graduation enlisted in the U.S. Navy serving during World War II.

This photo was taken in 1950,  when Ernie was an illustrator for a New York magazine.                                                                              Santa Monica History Museum, Beebe Collection (3.2.5811) 1950


After the war, Ernie attended the Jefferson Machamer School of Art in Santa Monica. Later he moved to New York where he became a freelance magazine cartoonist. His work was featured in the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s.

In 1952, Ernie married Lois Burke, and the couple moved to Southern California. Although Santa Monica would have been the couple’s first choice, they couldn’t afford it, so they moved to the West Hills.

He started work as a commercial artist in the aerospace industry, spending many years at Garrett Corp. in L.A., retiring in the 1980s.

For more than 50 years, Ernie acquired historic photos of the area and life in early Los Angeles, the Huntington Library acquired in 2014.

In a Los Angeles Times story, the library’s photography curator Jennifer Watts said: “This group of photographs is the best and most comprehensive collection of its kind in private hands,” and includes rare photos of 1870s Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

In a released statement, the Huntington wrote that “the photographs record Santa Monica’s transformation from rustic hamlet to international symbol of the California good life, with prints from the 1870s to the 1950s.”

The images were important in the four books by Ernie published with Angel City Press: “Santa Monica Beach” (2004), “Port of Los Angeles” (2007), “Noir Afloat” (2011) and “Rancho Boca de Santa Monica” (2021).

In 2004, his publisher arranged an appearance for him at the Jonathan Club on Pacific Coast Highway.

During the book signing, Ernie said, “I am honored to be here, signing my book, because when I was a child, I was cast off the beach of the Jonathan Club for being Mexican,” according to Angel City Press co-founder Paddy Calistro.

Ernie was also largely responsible for rehabilitating the family cemetery located on San Lorenzo Street in Santa Monica Canyon.

As homes grew around the cemetery, established in 1839, the only way to access it was a narrow easement. The resident next door said that the easement was terminated over nonuse.

In the 2000s, Ernie waged a lengthy legal battle with the neighbor, finally prevailing in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2005. By then, the cemetery had been designated a historic cultural monument by the City of Los Angeles.

The cemetery contains the remains of Pascual Marquez, his youngest son, and perhaps 30 other family members and friends–including 13 people who died in 1909 of botulism after eating home-canned peaches at a New Year’s Eve party.

Annually fourth graders from Canyon Charter School were allowed to take a field trip to the cemetery, where they saw the gravesites, adorned by crosses, hand-made by Ernie. He attended the most recent field trip held on December 11.

One of his many achievements was in conjunction with the Palisades Historical Society, when the original rail weight ties that were used on the long wharf were placed by the Port of Los Angeles ‘The Long Wharf, on Will Rogers State Beach.

Ernie was honored by the Pacific Palisades Community Council Service Award in 2013 and rode in the annual 4th of July Parade. He was featured prominently at the town’s 100th Anniversary Celebration in 2021.

He was predeceased by wife Lois Marquez and son Tommy Marquez. He is survived by children Eileen Bonaduce, Monica Marquez and Ernesto Marquez, as well as two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and several cousins.

Ernest Marquez hand made the crosses found in the family cemetery.

Now Ernie will join his ancestors in this peaceful place on San Lorenzo, away from the noise Canyon traffic and where gentle sea breezes blow across the quiet cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations for the future maintenance of The Pasqual Family Cemetery with checks made payable to La Senora Research Institute-Cemetery Account (a 501(c) (3)nonprofit  organization) and mailed c/o Sharon Kilbride, 245 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica, CA  90402.”


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2 Responses to Ernest Marquez, A Palisades Treasure, Passes

  1. Laura Lee Gold says:

    When I asked Marquez to speak about his family and Rancho Boca de Santa Monica to my son’s 4th grade class, he kindly agreed and gave a fabulous presentation. I video taped the talk with a VHS camera. If I can find the tape, it may be good to preserve either in the Huntington Library or maybe the LA Public Library at the Palisades Branch.

  2. Frances Tibbits says:

    Could this be railway ties rather than rail weight ties? Ties are the wooden cross pieces between the metal rails.

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