John Botanzos (originally Betanzos) was born in New York City, the second son of Ambrosio Betanzos and Josefa Gorroño. He was the beloved husband of Vincenza (Nancy) Gigante for nearly 71 years. They were married in Brooklyn, NY on January 9, 1943 and lived there until 1973 when they built their home in Plattekill.
When John was two years old, the family emigrated to Bizkaia in the Basque region of Spain, his parents’ homeland. John had an older brother Joseph and his sister, Vittori, was born shortly after they arrived in Spain. They settled in a town called Ea where John went to school and studied the txistu (a Basque flute accompanied by a drum called a tamboril). He was an altar server in their parish until he was fourteen years old and “the cassock just below my knees and Don Pedro said it was time I stopped”.
John was about five years old, when his father returned to New York to earn a wage and support his family. At the age of 16, John left Ea to join his father and brother in New York. He worked at odd jobs until he was old enough to work on a passenger ship as a cook’s assistant. He joined the US Army in 1942 and served in the South Pacific until 1945 as a cook on the front lines. He told stories of loading the trucks with meals and serving rations to soldiers in temporary tents.