To Victor Desarden, Sr., life was for living and he did so to the fullest. His life was a bit unconventional to some, yet it suited him just fine as he was never one to conform to social norms. Victor was a hard-working man throughout his life, but it was his family that his heart truly beat for. He was free-spirited with a friendly and outgoing personality that drew others to him. Victor’s life was not without challenges, yet he always found a way to overcome whatever obstacle stood in his way. He leaves behind lessons in dedication, strength, and love that will live on in the hearts and lives of those he treasured most.
Life in Puerto Rico during the thirties and forties was difficult for many citizens as wages were low and the workplace often included unsafe working conditions. The late 1940s brought the beginning of a major migration to the continental United States, mainly to New York City. The main reasons for this were an undesirable economic situation brought by the Great Depression, as well as heavy recruitment made by the United States armed forces and United States companies. It was during this transitional time that Jose and Maria (Soto) Desarden welcomed the birth of their son, Victor, on October 5, 1945. Victor was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, located near the geographical center of the west coast of Puerto Rico about two hours by automobile from San Juan. He was the fourth of five children in his family that was comprised of four boys and one girl.
It was during his formative years that Victor’s free spirit emerged. He was even described as a “handful” growing up. Victor enjoyed his friends, riding his bike, and swimming in the river as a young boy. In the pursuit of adventure, Victor would often sneak out through the window, not fearing the reprimands of his father – and they were plentiful! He had become friends with a truck driver, and Victor often accompanied him on his deliveries during his nighttime escapades. He also found more intrigue out in the world than he did in sitting in a classroom. Victor only completed his education through the ninth grade, partially because of the need to work due to his family’s economic position. It was also not uncommon for Victor to pick up and go for weeks at a time. At times, he left without a word to his family in regards to his whereabouts, only to show up some time later as though nothing happened.
It was in this same spirit that Victor left town with his brother and sister in 1959, bound for life in Chicago, Illinois. They were looking for a better life and being only 14, Victor was under the care of his older brother. Just as he had been a handful for his parents, Victor also proved to be a handful for his brother as he had trouble obeying the rules. He eventually was put out on his own during which time he became quite “street-wise.”
Life took Victor down a few different paths over the next several years. In order to support himself, Victor worked in various temporary positions throughout the Chicago area. Victor’s insatiable sense of adventure accompanied him into his personal relationships as well as he married five times. However, it was in 1991 that he met the woman who would forever hold the key to his heart. Her name was Migdalia Navarro, and Victor couldn’t help but notice her as she was leaving a nightclub one fateful evening. Victor tried to strike up a conversation with Migdalia, but found himself ignored instead. The next day he sent her a bouquet of roses, but again found himself left out in the cold as she was simply not interested. Victor continued in his pursuit of Migdalia, and finally after three months, they began dating. This relationship continued and although they never officially married, they considered themselves as such according to common-law marriage. During this time Victor worked as a set-up man for the A.B. Dick Company located in Niles, Illinois. In 2000, Migdalia found less expensive rent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and decided to move. Victor soon followed.
Although Victor and Migdalia never had any children together, they each had children from previous relationships. Victor treasured his children, and nothing could have pleased him more than becoming a grandfather. It was easy to see that his grandchildren were his greatest pride and joy. Victor and Migdalia even raised one of their granddaughters together. Although school was not a good fit for Victor, he stressed the importance of a formal education to his children. His favorite way to spend his time was with his family, but he also enjoyed model trains. He didn’t collect or build model train settings of his own, but if there was a model train show in the area, he was always sure to attend.
At times, Victor was faced with health challenges. He developed diabetes and heart problems which led him to retire on disability. Victor’s health challenges also led him on a path of highs and lows. His diabetes led to circulation problems, which eventually resulted in a series of strokes. Victor spent some time at Eastside Rehabilitation, and he later ended up at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital.
Victor Desarden, Sr. lived a vibrant life as evidenced by the colorful tapestry of memories he leaves behind. His family was the main focus in his life, and he especially loved spending precious moments with his grandchildren. Victor was wise in the ways of the world as his many adventures and experiences taught him invaluable lessons about life. He was blessed to share more than 15 years with his soul mate with whom he shared such special times. Although life was not without hardship for Victor, he faced each challenge with strength, ingenuity, and dedication. He will be dearly missed and warmly remembered by those he leaves behind.
Victor Desarden died on December 30, 2009. Victor’s family includes his wife, Migdalia Navarro; his children, William S. Desarden, Marisol Desarden, Maribel (David) Cruz, Elliot Campos, Victor A. Desarden, Carlos (Elizabeth) Desarden, Gerardo (Monica) Desarden and Aida Navarro; siblings, Virginio Madera, Carmen Madera, Jose A. Desarden Jr. and Seferino Desarden; 18 grandchildren; nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends. Victor was preceded in death by his son, Victor, Desarden, Jr. Visit with Victor’s family and friends on Wednesday, January 6 at the Funeral Home from 4 p.m. until time of service at 7 p.m. Interment Wisconsin Memorial Park, Brookfield, Wisconsin. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com, where you can leave a favorite memory or photo, or sign his online guestbook.