Graciela (Grace) Dendary


By: Miel Anjel Elustondo

Location: Reno, NV



Index and translations by Kate Camino
Sound byte files by Pedro J. Oiarzabal


Graciela Iralor Dendary was born in Madeline near Donibane Garazi 4/9/1939.  She came to the U.S. at the age of 17.  She spent her childhood in school and working with her parents on the farm.  They had sheep, cows, horses, pigs etc.  Five kids and she’s the only one that came to the U.S.  She used to play by dancing and playing pelota.  She played handball and learned in school.  Her town is 1 km from Donibane. 


She stayed there until the age of 17.  She came because she followed her husband.  He was already working in the states as a sheepherder.  He returned to the Basque Country where they married and returned to the states together in 1958.  They came by plane from Bayonne to London and then from London to LA and LA to Reno.  They came on Pan Am and it took a really long time.  She was really hungry when she came too because they were only given a couple pieces of bread with lettuce and tomato.


The first came to Reno but then moved to Elko.  Her husband worked as a baker there.  They spent 3 years in Elko and returned to Reno because the bakery closed there.  There are more Basques in Reno than Elko but those in Elko are closer and have more community than the ones in Reno.


She started working in the school cafeteria in Reno High School as a cook.  She worked there for 4 years, she started there right after moving back to Reno.  The lunches were like in the Basque country a lot of sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs.  After working in the school for 4 years her and her husband opened their own bakery where they made Basque-style bread, rolls etc.  They owned the bakery for 14 years, it was at 501 E. Moana Lane and was called the Basque Bakery.  Right after they sold the bakery she started working at Louis’ Basque Corner as a waitress.  She enjoys waiting tables a lot.  Basques from all over come to Louis’, some that she knows from other club picnics and so on. 


Grace was the Zazpiak Bat Basque club dance instructor for nearly 20 years.  When the club started they asked her if she would be the instructor and so she said says.  She loves to dance and so she really enjoyed being the instructor. 


She learned English by watching TV as well as learning with her kids. 


Her mom was from Lekeitio Bizkaia.  Her dad was Manes Iralur and her mom was Mary Louise Bengoechea.  She doesn’t know how her mom got to Iparralde from Bizkaia for sure. 


For Grace being Basque in the US is different from being Basque in the Basque Country.  She doesn’t think that you can be Basque in the US, everyone here is American.  Her kids she considers Basque because she brought them up that way.  They spoke Basque until they started school but then lost it.  Though they are able to understand Basque still.  Her kids, one son and two daughters, all danced in the club group growing up but since there are many Americans (Basques born in the US) in the group so they never spoke Basque there.


She spends her spare time on their ranch. They have some sheep, dogs and she spends time there.  The ranch is on the way to Susanville next to the inspection station.  Now they’re lambing so she spends time with the lambs, they also have chickens and rabbits too.  She really enjoys spending time on the ranch, like she did in her childhood.  They live in town but Grace goes to the ranch every day to feed the animals before going to work at Louis’ in the afternoon.


She’s happy in Reno because this is where her family is.  She’s also happy in the states it’s different here but she’s OK.  She visited the Basque Country 10 years ago, but she’d no longer want to live there since it’s changed a lot since she left as well.  She visited her birthplace and it’s changed a lot.  They have everything there like in the states, indoor plumbing, cars, appliances etc.  That’s a good thing she says.  But because her family is here this is now her home.  She has a brother that lives in Anglet.


She thinks that the Basque language will be lost in the US but it’s hard to say if the culture will survive.  The youth aren’t very involved in Reno, and since the older generation is passing away she’s not sure if there’s hope for Reno.  She sees youth being more involved in other places though, like San Francisco.  The kids in Reno aren’t very interested and the club isn’t very active like other places, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Chino and Elko.