‘Common Boy’ Eddie Braga, 91, Helped Build Imperial Beach

Published Aug. 8, 2013 by Imperial Beach Patch.

Family described Eddie Braga as quiet but strong and a person who never failed. The longtime Imperial Beach resident and veteran passed away Saturday at the home he built blocks from the beach. He was 91.

Eddie Braga was born Feb. 20, 1922. One of 15 children, he grew up milking cows and plowing fields on a farm in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Kids on the Braga farm did not get Christmas presents, his family said.

“There wasn’t much to go around but he came out on the good side of that,” his daughter Paula Braga­Kosmicki said.

Eddie met his wife Olga in the early 1940s when he asked her to teach him to ice skate, even though he knew how.

“It was during a Christmas party. We were Christmas caroling and his sister introduced us,” Olga said.

Braga served in the 12th Armored Division “Hellcats” in Patton’s army in World War II. His

division helped liberate concentration camps. Three of his brothers also fought in World War II. When he returned from war, Eddie and Olga got married in Sept. 1947. They came to Imperial Beach for their honeymoon and never left.

Instead they rented an apartment in a converted garage and Eddie got a part-­time job building homes in IB.

At that time much of the area was grass fields, few roads were paved and there was an unobstructed view of mountains in the distance, Olga said.

“We built at nights and weekends and worked during the day,” she said.

“Some of his friends offered to let him borrow power tools but he was so frightened that if one broke he didn’t have the money to repay them to replace them so everything was by handsaw,” Braga ­Kosmicki said.

Later Olga worked at the post office, and Eddie as a heavy equipment operator at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado.

Eddie liked building things, race cars, camping and watching construction work.

“He was a common boy,” Olga said. “Anybody who knows him likes him for who he was.”

Eddie also enjoyed archery.

“When they first moved to Imperial Beach he used to go in the [Tijuana] Sloughs and do archery,” Braga­ Kosmicki said.

In the 1970s Eddie, his wife and neighbors took part in what Imperial Beach: A Pictoral History calls “one of the bitterest fights this city has ever seen.”

In April 1976 city staff suggested city council use eminent domain to restructure land parcels near the beach. In response to a controversial 3­2 vote, a group called Citizens Action Group of Imperial Beach was formed. Together they led a successful recall campaign to remove Bert Stites, the city’s first elected mayor, and two councilmembers from office.

“He loves this city. No matter where we went, this was home,” his daughter Gail Braga said.

After health troubles forced Eddie and Olga to be more active, the two began to take two­-mile walks on a regular basis. The halfway point was West Coast Cafe, formerly International Blends, at the corner of 2nd Street and Palm Avenue.

The Bragas were the shop’s first customers when it first opened in 1990.

“I was the first one in,” Olga said. “I was watching the place go up. And when they first opened the doors I was there,” Olga said.

There, Eddie and Olga made friends who met every morning for coffee, a pastry and to talk about their lives, Imperial Beach and the world, but Eddie didn’t do a lot of talking.

“You didn’t hear him say much. He was strong and quiet but when he said something it meant something,” Gail said.

Coffee shop regulars celebrated Eddie’s 91 birthday and Olga’s 94st birthday at West Coast Cafe in February.

Valerie Pugatch can be found at the coffee shop every morning and made frequent trips to the Braga’s home toward the end of Eddie’s life.

“He was as sweet as blueberry muffins or lemon meringue pie,” she said. Though his health was deteriorating, “He just kept hanging on for Olga,” she said.

A viewing will be held 5­9 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Chapel of the Roses at Glenn Abbey Mortuary at 3838 Bonita Rd. in Bonita. A rosary will be held at 7 p.m.

A funeral service will be held at noon Aug. 14 at 990 Saturn Blvd. in San Diego.

The Bragas have been members of the St. Charles Catholic Church parish since 1948 and at one point Eddie helped build the church’s current building, his family said.

He is survived by his wife Olga, his daughters Gail Braga and Paula Braga­Kosmicki, son­in­law George Kosmicki, granddaughter Krista Kosmicki, brothers August Braga, Manuel Braga, Robert Braga and Alfred Braga and sister Ruth Sanchez along with several nieces and nephews.

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