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Mondoñedo Family, circa 1915-circa 1980 and undated

 Series 15

Felipe Estifano Mondoñedo (1897-1986) was born in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines and enlisted in the United States Navy while living in Manila and served during World War I and World War II, including on the steel-hulled sailing bark U.S.S. Cumberland in Annapolis, Maryland during World War I (1). He became a citizen in 1944 and after the war he married Christine Helphenstine (1926-1979) (2). Felipe worked as a valet and chauffeur for retired military officer Major Davis B. Wills at 2359 Ashmead Place Northwest, Washington, D.C., and drove a taxicab in Washington, D.C. (3). In 1946 their daughter Juanita (Nita) was born (4).

After their parents separated, Nita and her sister Magdalina (Maggie or Mattie) lived with family friends, Braulio Macaba Rillon and Edna Collins Rillon, their children and Braulio's brothers Lakay and Nicasio (Nick or Tasho), from 1947-1952 in a house on South Carolina Avenue in Capitol Hill and in 1958 on Dixon Street in Oxon Run Hills, Maryland (5). On Capitol Hill, Edna's sister, Bea and her husband Dempsey Songco lived very close by and the families visited often (6).

Between 1952 and 1958 the Nita and Maggie lived at St. Vincent's Home for Girls, a Catholic orphanage run by the Daughters of Charity and attended Catholic schools, including St. Aloysius Junior High School (7). Nita also attended St. Aloysius Junior High School Nita and Maggie stayed for a short time with their mother, their grandmother Ila Mae, and their mother's boyfriend, Eugenio (Pete) Peralta, who owned a house in Seat Pleasant, Maryland and worked at the Navy Yard (8). In 1960 Nita attended St. Patrick's Academy and Mattie attended Kramer Junior High School in Anacostia (9). They lived with their father in an apartment in Southeast D.C., at a foster home with Dean and Myra Sue Hale and their children in District Heights and later Mattie moved back in with the Rillons in Oxon Run Hills and Nita moved back to St. Vincent's, staying there from 1961 until 1963 (10). St. Vincent's closed in 1967 (11).

When she was 15, Mattie married a man from the Oxon Run Hills, Maryland neighborhood and had a baby. The marriage ended in fall of 1964 (12). After she graduated high school in 1964, Nita worked as a clerk stenographer at the United States Peace Corps and lived with her father at 6626 Georgia Avenue Northwest (13). Later she worked at the American Red Cross, as a secretary to Dorothy B. Taaffe, and at the World Bank (14). In 1968 Felipe married Petronila (Nila) Benitez, who was originally from Honduras (15). He died on Thanksgiving, 1986 (16).

Nita married René Sheker Heidler (b. 1940) in 1970 and had three children with him (Kelly, Kristina and Kristofer) (17). René was German-Filipino and grew up in Manila. He became a U.S. citizen in the early 1970s (18). René and Nita moved their family to Frederick, Maryland in 1976; they divorced in the 1980s (19). Nita later married Gene M. Smith, who served in the United States Navy (20).

These photographs include formal portraits and snapshots of the Mondoñedo family and their friends (including the Rillon and Songco families) and show events like Christmas, parties, graduations, weddings and trips. This series is arranged in its original order.

  1. (1) Nita Mondoñedo Smith, Say Uncle! Life in DC with my Filipino Uncles (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2005), 55, 88; Series 15, Box 2, Folder 15, Item 4 - Felipe Mondoñedo in Navy uniform in front of a building with flowers in Annapolis, Maryland [Photograph, Black and White] [Box 2, Folder 9], circa 1919.
  2. (2) "Felipe Mondonedo," FamilySearch, [Last Accessed: October 25, 2016]; Smith, Say Uncle!, 5
  3. (3) Nita Mondoñedo Smith, Forever in Our Hearts (Baltimore: Publish America, 2004), 25.
  4. (4) Rita M. Cacas and Juanita Tamayo Lott, Filipinos in Washington, D.C. (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2009), 47; Smith, Forever in Our Hearts,, 25, 40.
  5. (5) Series 15, Box 2, Folder 15, Item 23 - Nita Mondoñedo in a bed - first pictures [Photograph, Black and White] [Box 2, Folder 9], May 27, 1946.
  6. (6) Smith, Say Uncle!, 13.
  7. (7) Ibid., Introduction, 13; "email for ralph michael rillon," Ancestry, [Last Accessed: October 25, 2016]; Smith, Forever in Our Hearts, 147
  8. (8) Smith, Forever in Our Hearts, 147, 173.
  9. (9) Ibid., 149, 151; Smith, Say Uncle!, 81.
  10. (10) Smith, Forever in Our Hearts, 154.
  11. (11) Ibid., 153, 172, 173, 177, 208.
  12. (12) Ibid., 211.
  13. (13) Ibid., 158, 180; Smith, Say Uncle!, 60.
  14. (14) Smith, Forever in Our Hearts, 210; Smith, Say Uncle!, 61, 91, 94.
  15. (15) Ibid., 62.
  16. (16) Ibid., 63-4.
  17. (17) Ibid., 112.
  18. (18) Ibid., 112, 116.
  19. (19) Ibid., 115, 118.
  20. (20) Ibid., 42.


  • circa 1915-circa 1980 and undated

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Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
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