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Multicultural Roots Project

The Multicultural Roots Project was created to increase visibility for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Sonoma County, with a particular focus on Santa Rosa; and to recognize, through historical stories from BIPOC, contributions and impacts that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Working with local historians and community partners, Community Engagement staff gather stories and facts about local BIPOC leaders, as well as historical events and places that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. Each month, we will share five of these stories with the public through multiple communication channels, including the City’s website, social media and this newsletter.

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Oct 11

Inocencio and Felisa Asuelo: Gone but not Forgotten

Posted on October 11, 2021 at 8:26 AM by Danielle Garduno

Web_Asuelo Family

Inocencio Asuelo was born on July 29, 1909, in the Philippines. Fondly known as Sonny, Inocencio immigrated to the US in the early 1930s to work for another local historical figure, Mr. Frank P. Doyle, President of the Exchange Bank and “Father of the Golden Gate Bridge”. He worked for the Doyle family as a chauffeur and gardener.  

As Mr. Doyle’s chauffeur, he had the honor of driving Mr. Doyle across the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day. On May 27, 1937, he was the first person to drive a private vehicle across the Golden Gate Bridge.  

That same year, Inocencio saved enough money and brought his wife and childhood sweetheart, Felisa, to the United States. With Inocencio’s support and sponsorship from Mr. Doyle, Felisa became the first Filipina to live in Santa Rosa and the greater Sonoma County area.   

Once in Santa Rosa, Felisa worked for the Doyles as their housekeeper. She and Inocencio lived in the basement of the Doyle home for many years and started their family there. Their first-born daughter, Polly Asuelo Yoro, was named after Mrs. Polly Doyle.  

In 1953, the Asuelo family left the Doyle house and purchased a prune orchard in west Santa Rosa, where they settled their family and built a home. The Asuelos dreamt of growing old on the orchard, and wanted their children to live on the property in the future. In 1989, developers bought the orchard and agreed to buy back four homes to the Asuelos--one for Felisa and three for each of her children.  

 Inocencio died in December 1985, at the age of 76. Nearly two decades later, Felisa passed on December 28, 2002, at the age of 92. Gone but not forgotten, Sonny and Felisa’s impact can still be seen today in the streets of Santa Rosa. Before she passed, Felisa helped establish the Filipino American Community of Sonoma County. The Asuelo children fulfilled their late parents' dream. All three children live in homes built where their parents prune orchard once was, located on Asuelo Way.